A while ago I wrote a very short London-based story called Sharing Space, about the culture of self-inflicted isolation particular to some parts of the city. It's an observational piece, quite nuanced, and I've been tinkering with it for months to try to get it exactly right. I was terribly pleased to hear today from Laura Black, editor of the state-of-the-art online journal Fictive Dream, that she has kindly accepted it for publication in early December.
Really delighted that my story Where the Fallen Have Gathered appears later today in the beautiful online literary journal Nymphs. I began to read about the women who became known as the ‘Winchester Geese’ after my wife and some friends came upon the Cross Bones graveyard in Southwark while walking the London ring. The Winchester Geese were prostitutes, doubtless not through choice, in post-medieval times. Licensed and organised by the local bishop they typically died young and were then buried in an unmarked communal grave in unconsecrated ground. Every year a crowd still gathers in reparation to celebrate their lives. It's available to read via my Stories page here
Today my story ‘Blurred Edges’ appears courtesy of the vibrant and fast-growing online journal Lunate Fiction. It’s set on the edge of an estuary somewhere on the south-east coast, and once again I’ve tried to use the description of place almost as an additional character. Lots of themes have somehow squeezed into this one: solitude, liminality, inherited talent, and just a little wistfulness for life away from the modern world. You can read it via my Stories page here
Paperbacks, a very new story, comes out today in the Singapore-based journal Eunoia Review. It's a story in which I hoped to convey a particular atmosphere, and to reflect on the way in which life and art can coincide at pivotal times in life. And there's something about the Thames on a rainy day.... You can read it via my Stories page here
Today my story Dissolving Sands appears in the beautifully produced Potato Soup Journal. The story involves a sand artist, designing ephemeral patterns on a beach in the far north-east of Scotland. I used to visit this area regularly and its magic has stayed with me. You can read it via my Stories page here
It has suddenly become a very busy time. I was delighted to hear today that my story Paperbacks will be appearing in Eunoia Review, probably within the next couple of weeks. I wrote it after a rainy walk along the Southbank to the Bonnard exhibition earlier this year. Sometimes an atmosphere stays in the mind....
I heard today from Hannah and Gary, editors of Lunate, that they have accepted my story Blurred Edges for provisional publication in mid-October. Lunate is a recently established journal, and I've been blown away by the sheer quality of the very diverse writing they've put out so far. The story is set near an estuary and is very meaningful to me for a number of reasons, so it's wonderful to see it find such a good home.
I was really delighted to learn that my story Dissolving Sand will appear in Potato Soup Journal on September 13th. It's one of my longer stories, and I've been reworking it over the last year or so, particularly the ending. I'll say more once it comes out.
My story Keeping in Touch appears today in the innovative and diverse online journal Hypnopomp. The term 'hypnopompic state', from which the journal derives its name, refers to the liminal time between sleep and waking, and hence to the veil between the conscious and unconscious. This story is about memory and obsession, overt behaviour and the motives that drive it, both known and hidden. You can read it via my Stories page here
A milestone reached today! I've just learned that the wonderful Laura Black has accepted my story Alex's Blue Bag for publication in Fictive Dream in November. This marks my fiftieth publication, including non-fiction. No-one has supported my writing more than Laura and Fictive Dream, so it feels perfect that the story should appear there.
Today one of the shortest stories I've written appears in the online journal Lunate Fiction, run by some of the nicest people it's been my pleasure to encounter in the writing world. The story is called Diminishing Returns, and features a character who, despite his giving nature, finds himself marginalised and unrecognised. Lunate Fiction is a journal with a conscience, and I'm delighted to be able to place this story in their hands. You can read it via my Stories page here
Today my story 'How Things End' appears in the Singapore-based journal Eunoia Review. I got really engrossed as I wrote this one, and experimented with something slightly different technically - trying to go off at tangents while still maintaining the narrative. I got the idea from Tom Jenks, the poet and story writer, whose work I admire enormously. He also creates detailed, engrossing micro-worlds, which I've tried to do too. See what you think - it's available to read via my Stories page here
At a time when writing has somehow turned into a slow and grinding process, I was really pleased to hear today that my story 'How Things End' has been accepted by the Eunoia Review for publication in early August. I'll say more and put up a link once it appears.
Today my story "Works in Progress' appears in my favourite online journal Fictive Dream. It's set in the small universe that is the London Borough of Camden, and describes a friendship resuming in the aftermath of a relationship split, with a certain amount of Buddhism thrown in. The friendship, though, has its own challenges. Laura Black, Fictive Dream's founder and editor, has built a fine, supportive writing community, and continues to help a very wide range of writers gain wider exposure. No-one has helped me more and I'm enormously grateful.
You can read 'Works in Progress' via my Stories page here
My story 'Voices' referred to below, comes out today. For a couple of years I worked in a psychiatric hospital with people who had psychotic illnesses. Most of them heard voices, sometimes multiple voices. It was a very rich, if demanding time, which taught me a lot about the human condition, and myself. The people I met remain in my heart, and I've wanted to write a story about them for a long time. Very close to real life, this one. You can read it via my Stories page here
Very excited to learn that my story 'Voices' has been accepted by to appear in the inaugural edition of Crimson Cascade, the online journal of Ayaskala, a wonderful organisation devoted to spreading awareness of mental health issues. It's coming out in a few days time, so I'll say more when it does.
Today my story 'The Slope' joins fine stories by Isobel Blackthorn and Santino Prinzi as part of the 'Revisits' series from Fictive Dream. This time the theme is rivalry, and each story explores this at a different stage of life. It's a while ago now, but I seem to remember I had Catherine Mansfield's 'The Fly' in the back of my mind when I wrote this one, lthough what came out was very different.
Absolutely delighted that my story 'Somewhere on the Spectrum' has been accepted for issue 7 of the beautifully produced Irish journal Crossways. I'll say a little more when it comes out, but this one is about a difficult relationship and the dangers of volunteering, amongst other things.
I learned this week that my story 'Works in Progress' has been accepted for publication on July 7th in the superb Fictive Dream. It's another two-hander, this time about life transitions with a little Buddhism thrown in. I felt I knew the characters really well by the time the story was finished, and hope to return to them again. As for Fictive Dream, it seems to me that this journal is pretty much state of the art, and just keeps getting better. Laura Black is a highly skilled and supportive editor. In my experience she suggests changes sparingly, but where she does she always improves the script. Also picks a range of images to support the story, and allows the author to choose which suits best. Fictive Dream really should win an award.
Just heard that my story 'Goat Girl' has been accepted by the excellent Prole, a magazine to which I subscribe, and which just seems to get better and better. The story concerns a remote mountain community, young love, and perhaps a little mysticism. Very hard to say where it came from....
Lots of writing happening and a few stories gone out. I'm completing story 94 on my way to 100, and beginning to think what might happen next. There seem to be three options at the moment: carry on doing the same, stop, or try to write a book of related short stories, each complete in itself but with an overlap of themes and characters. I've given up on the idea of writing a novel - was never that keen anyway, and my only attempt faltered at 17K words. Looks like short stories or nothing.
I learned earlier this week that my story 'Jem Furley' has been accepted for publication in late June by the American online journal History and Fiction. I once wrote a referenced essay about wheelwrighting and my first job in mental health was in a former asylum. I never imagined these things would coincide, but they have in this story, set in rural Surrey, circa 1910.
As previewed a while ago, my story 'Feeding Ducks' has been republished today in Fictive dream, under the heading 'Revisits', along with stories by Len Kuntz and Anne Goodwin, a trilogy of stories on the dark theme of abuse. In writing the story I drew from conversations with women with whom I'd worked as a therapist, who had experienced some form of psychological abuse. The story is entirely fictitious, but based on circumstances that could easily have happened. You can read it via my Stories page here
My story ‘Taking Steps’ comes out today in my favourite online journal, Fictive Dream. The setting combines two hospitals I worked in, many conversations with runners who have happened to be in the same changing room, and many more still with people diagnosed with a haematological cancer. Means a lot to me, this one. You'll find the link for it on my Stories page by clicking here
I was approached this week by a Swiss Canadian student who wants to translate my story 'The Homing Instinct', first published in Confingo and the Best British Short Stories 2018, as part of her diploma. It's very uplifting to know someone wants to give something you've written that degree of attention.
I seldom write articles now, but discovered an online Journal called Lucid Dreaming Experience and sent them an account of a vivid recurring dream, describing how I experienced it at the time, and then in retrospect. It's called 'Dreaming the Same Dream: Lucidity, Volition and Resolution' and you can read it via my Other Publications page here
No new stories accepted yet, but there's plenty of writing going on: a story set circa 1910 about wheelwrighting, incest, and the mental health system of the time, a story told by an elderly poet looking back on friendship, rivalry, and the sordid business of writing poems, and a fable about a mountain community, and a boy who falls in love with a fiercely independent young woman who happens to be disabled. And that's just some of them. Keeping my fingers crossed they find a taker.
More news from the marvellous Fictive Dream. Under the heading 'Revisits', my story 'Feeding Ducks' will be republished on the 24th April, along with stories by Len Kuntz and Anne Goodwin. Each of the these stories is based on a theme of abuse. All are dark, but deeply human, and told from a point of compassion. Also under the heading 'Revisits' my story 'The Slope' will be republished on 12th June, with stories by Isobel Blackthorn and Santino Prinzi. Each of these finds a different way of looking at the theme of rivalry. Thanks again to Laura Black for coming up with the wonderfully innovative idea of grouping stories to offer a spectrum of perspectives on single complex themes.
I thought a lot about the phenomenon of hope when I worked with cancer patients and their family and friends. My latest story, 'Taking Steps', draws from this, and I'm absolutely delighted that Laura Black, who edits Fictive Dream, has accepted it for publication on April 21st. I'll say more when the story is published, but in the meantime wish to say thanks once again to Laura for her ongoing support.
The Rituals Issue of Here Come's Everyone Magazine arrived yesterday, beautifully produced and with diverse, high quality content, and kindly including my story 'A Soul's Lament'. There's something heartening about so much creativity going on in disturbing times, but I think it was ever thus. Stories, poetry, music and art endure as an expression of the human spirit, and in these times we need them more than ever. (Did I mention that 'A Soul's Lament' contains the first, and I really hope last, mention of Brexit in my fiction?).
I'm delighted that 'On the Outside of Everything', one of my favourite recent stories, is now available to read on line, and via my Stories page here
I learned on Thursday that my story 'Who We Once Were' has been accepted for issue 12 of the exquisite Manchester-based journal Confingo. The story is a re-imagining of the streets of my childhood, and an unusual event that occurred. I knew the person it happened to and went from there. Confingo really is a thing of beauty, with fine artwork and intriguing stories and poems. It will be the second time one of my stories will appear in it and I'm greatly honoured.