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 Marc Littman 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.
You wait ages for a story and then three come at once. I'm delighted that 'A Soul's Lament', in which an unworldly soul (are souls ever worldly?) finds itself reluctantly viewing the world through the eyes of a stuffed coypu, is now available in the 'Rituals Issue' of Here Comes Everyone Magazine. Also, 'On the Outside of Everything', a story of old friends who meet in very changed circumstances, has just been published in Issue 12 of the Nottingham Review. Finally, 'A Hidden Place', which was shortlisted in the short story section of the 2017 Bedford International Writing Competition, is now available in their 2017 anthology. None are as yet online, so can't be read via my 'Stories' page, but I've put links there for anyone who'd like to buy them in paperback.
Perhaps this is my breakout week. My story 'Breath' available to read via my Stories page has just been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 2019, by the wonderful Laura Black, editor of Fictive Dream. Laura has nominated five other stories, all beautiful pieces of writing, including the sublime 'Instrumental Rationality' by Gitanjali Kolanad. You know you've done something right when you find yourself in that sort of company. I just hope one or more of us progress further for Laura, a superb editor, generous person, and champion of the short story.
'A Soul's Lament', a story about a soul who finds itself incarnated in a stuffed coypu, in circumstances it can only struggle to interpret, has been accepted by the editorial team at Here Comes Everyone, the excellent Coventry-based journal. I'm tremendously pleased about this - stuffed coypus can struggle to gain credibility, but this one's found a great home. A publication date hasn't been agreed yet, but I'll put up another note when it is. click here to read some of the editors' greatly appreciated comments.
I've just heard from the Nottingham Review that they have accepted a recently completed story 'On the Outside of Everything'. I'll write more when it comes out in December, but just to say that the story is set in the present day and involves two old friends, one an ex-army veteran, both in some sort of recovery. The timing seems prescient now a hundred years have finally passed since the end of WW1. I'm profoundly grateful to be the first man in four generations of my family who has not had to fight in a war. Many thanks to Spencer Chou, the Nottingham Review editor.
'Paper Darts', a story that I held onto for a long time before submitting, has just appeared in the first edition of a new online magazine called Pixel Heart. The chosen theme of the Issue is 'Love', and the editor, Chloe Smith, has put together a really evocative and moving selection of poems and stories exploring love in its many aspects. I'm so glad I waited for the right opportunity before submitting this story because it couldn't have found a better home, and I'm so pleased that Chloe felt able to accept it. Pixel Heart is going to be something special, I feel. you can find it via the link on my Stories page
Today, at last, my story 'The Family' appears in Hypnopomp Magazine. I can't say how grateful I am that they decided to publish it. Prior to that it had the most unusual feedback of any story I've written. One editor even said it had been top of his shortlist, but then somehow decided not to accept it. Paradoxical but not untypical. On the whole it was admired but thought too strange. Thank you Hypnopomp for being unafraid of strange stories. And after all, it's not that strange, is it? go to my stories page to decide for yourself
13th October 2018
I'm delighted that my story 'The Species Assimilation Unit' appears today in the wonderful Cabinet of Heed. It's about forced migration, and what happens to those who are impelled to travel far from home in the hope of finding safety and a welcome. Although in this instance the migrants are animals. Originally this was meant as an allegory, although the allegory becomes more literal every day, as polar bears slither on ever smaller chunks of ice, and a beluga whale somehow finds its way into the Thames. It's a sad story but there are some laughs in there too. It's available to read now via my 'Stories' page click here
27th September 2018
To read a kind and intriguing review of 'The Violet Eye' (Nightjar Press) from Des Lewis, Gestalt Real-time Reviews click here Des has also reviewed Philippa Holloway's superb story 'The Message', published on the same day as 'The Violet Eye'.
23rd September 2018
It's always a special day when the superb Fictive Dream posts one of my stories. Today it's quite a short one called 'Breath', in which I've tried to explore how a serious illness causes the narrator to explore the limits of his personal freedom. Within this several themes overlap, making it a really tricky piece to write - but then I do love a challenge. It's available to read now via my Story page.
13th September 2018
Very special news. My chapbook, 'The Violet Eye', is now available from Nightjar Press. Nightjar publishes between four and six signed, limited editions each year, so it's a great privilege to have one of my stories chosen, especially with a strapline from Tania Hershman. I'm also privileged that its publication is twinned with a deeply atmospheric and involving story by Philippa Holloway called 'The Message', which I can't recommend highly enough. you can order both from here
7th September 2018
I've just received a very cheery email telling me that one of my very favourite stories 'The Species Assimilation Unit' has been accepted for publication by the online journal Cabinet of Heed, and is due to come out in Issue 13 in October. The story imagines a future dystopia, rather like the present, in which forced migrants find themselves aliens within the maze of another culture. Except in this case the migrants are all animals, so they have to contend with humans as well. Judging from the response of people I've asked to read it for comment, it's one of those 'laugh then cry' stories, and I'm so glad it has migrated to a good home. Thank you Cabinet of Heed!
2nd September 2018
I'm delighted that my story 'The Family' has found the perfect home in Hypnopomp Magazine, which specialises in unusual and experimental fiction, with publication scheduled for October 28th. 'The Family' was based on the residue of a dream (hence Hypnopomp) about a house full of the most idiosyncratic residents who, despite their extreme individuality, seemed completely accepting of one another (obviously none of them were politicians). The flavour of the dream lingered, and I imagined what it would be like to live in such a community, and so another story was born.
12th August 2018
I heard today that one of my more experimental stories, 'A Soul's Lament', has been shortlisted for the forthcoming 'Rituals' edition of the Coventry-based literary magazine Here Comes Everyone. It would be wonderful if it progressed to publication, but even if it doesn't I'd still feel grateful to the editors. How many people would consider a story narrated by a soul that discovers it's living on a mantlepiece incarnated in the stuffed body of a dead coypu? Not to mention where the mantlepiece is situated....
6th August 2018
Issue 26 of the wonderful Prole Magazine, containing one of my favourite stories, 'The Estate', is now available. You can find a link to Prole via my Stories page click here. As I mentioned when 'The Estate' was first accepted, recently I've tried to write stories in which the setting itself becomes a 'character'. In this case the character is based on personal experience of working on some very tough but vibrant council estates in West London. A young caretaker and a young single mum find themselves living on one such, each exploring different ways to get by. I'd strongly recommend Prole - it never disappoints. Thanks again to the editors, Phil and Brett.
23rd July 2018
'Angel Street', a story I wrote some time ago, has just been published online by the Tasmanian journal Communion. It's a sad story, but a favourite of mine, based on events that actually happened. It's available via a link on my 'Stories' page, so I won't ruin it for anyone who wants to read it, but I'll just say that it's about the loss of innocence and what can happen when aspiration comes up against the human condition.
10th July 2018
Best British Short Stories 2018 (Salt), containing my story 'The Homing Instinct', is now available. You can order it via a link on the 'Stories' page. The story was originally published in Confingo, and was inspired by a group of homeless people who made a place to live under some arches by the river near my home. I understand the story has split those who've read it - they either love or hate it, in the latter case because they struggle to believe that homeless people can be educated and come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Ironically all the salient details in the story are drawn from homeless people I've encountered in my working life. Writers sometimes stereotype, but so, it seems, do readers. I would really encourage anyone who loves short stories to get this anthology. I buy it every year and find wonderful writers that I might not otherwise have known about.
9th July 2018
I'm delighted that 'Paper Darts', a story I've been writing and re-writing for several years now, has been accepted for publication in a new online journal called 'Pixel Heart'. The journal's editor, Chloe Smith, chose love as a theme for the first issue, and the story is about a teenage break-up, remembered ruefully from a later perspective. Before I submitted it I visited Chloe's website and read an exquisite poem called 'Paper People'. I wonder if most writers look for synchronicities, but I can't help feeling 'Pixel Heart' is going to be special.
20th June 2018
I'm honoured that my story 'Breath' has been accepted to appear in Fictive Dream, with a provisional publication date of 7th October. It was a difficult story to write because, despite being little more than 1600 words, it contains several themes, which needed to sit together for the story to work. I've been fascinated by the mind/body relationship since I trained as a yoga teacher and biofeedback practitioner in my mid-to-late twenties, and particularly the interplay between our breathing and mental states. The story explores this in the context of healing after serious illness, and also the idea of ascension as a metaphor for aspiration and gaining new perspective.
17th June 2018
I've just received a proof of the cover design for the chapbook of my story 'The Violet Eye' (due out via Nightjar Press in the autumn). It's a stunning woodcut image by the designer Alex Needham. 'The Violet Eye' will be published at the same time as Philippa Holloway's chapbook 'The Message', also with a cover designed by Alex. Suddenly writing doesn't seem such a solitary business.
1st May 2018
My story 'Touching Air' appears today in the online journal Riggwelter. You can find a link to it on my 'Stories' page. I've always been fascinated by the energetic exchange that can occur between therapist (in this case complementary therapist) and patient. In this story I imagine this going a little further than usual.
23rd April 2018
Great news today. My story 'The Estate' has been accepted for publication by Phil and Brett, the editors of Prole Magazine. During the last year I've tried to write stories in which the setting itself becomes a 'character'. 'The Estate' is based on fond, and occasionally not so fond memories of thousands of visits I've paid to people's homes on many of the council estates in West London. Life in these could be pretty eventful, and I loved writing this story and am delighted Phil and Brett felt able to accept it. It will be my second story to appear in Prole, which I strongly recommend if you like high quality stories and poems that put the reader first.
15th April 2018
'Feeding Ducks', published in Fictive Dream today, is now available to read online, via a link on my 'Stories' page. It was a hard story to write. It's theme is psychological abuse, and draws from my work as a therapist, as well as an incident I witnessed years ago on holiday in France. As I was writing, the two came together in my mind. More and more I find that writing, for me, is about making links between seemingly disparate events. Laura Black, who edits Fictive Dream, has chosen a stunning image to illustrate the story, and I'm grateful that she kindly agreed to publish it.
22nd March 2018
This week I received the first editing draft of my story 'The Violet Eye'. It's soon to be published as a limited edition chapbook by Nightjar Press, an imprint, edited by Nicholas Royle, which specialises in fantastical or supernatural tales. My story in neither, but to my surprise and delight Nicholas offered to publish it anyway. As often happens, I learned a lot from the editing process too. Good editors help writers to write better.
1st March 2018
As promised 'The Wand Maker' has appeared today in the inaugural issue of Crossways, and there's now a direct link to it on my Stories page. I would encourage you also to look through this beautiful online journal. There are some wonderful poems and stories there, and the presentation is exquisite.
17th February 2018
Very pleasant surprise. I've just discovered that Fairlight Books, a recently established and innovative publisher based in Oxford, chose 'When You Became Me' for their Valentine's Day/pick of the week story. It's rather dark, but is ultimately about love. The story was published in November 2017, so many thanks to everyone at Fairlight for choosing it again. To read it via their Facebook page click here
16th February 2018
Occasionally I write something for my wife at Christmas. This year it was a very short story called 'The Wand Maker' (to go with a handmade wand). It was meant to be a private thing, but she generously encouraged me to submit it and I've just learned that it's been accepted for the inaugural issue of an exciting new Irish online journal called Crossways. It's due to appear in March or April, and I'll put a link on my Stories page when it does.
25th January 2018
I was pleased to be invited to submit some stories to the Tasmanian online journal Communion earlier this month. As a result a story based on a childhood experience, 'Angel Street' has been accepted for Issue 9, to be published in June. I'll put a link up on my Stories pages when this happens. It's great to know my stories are starting to travel round the world.
20th January 2018
Just returned from the awards ceremony at the Bedford International Writing Competition, for which my story 'A Hidden Place' was shortlisted. No further prizes this year, but it was a delight to attend again, hear the readings of poetry and stories, and catch up with Frank, Philip and the other kind and hard working people who make this such a special annual event. 'A Hidden Place' will subsequently be published online and in paperback. When that happens I will put a link on my Stories page.
16th January 2018
To my great delight I've just learned that my rather dark story 'Feeding Ducks' has been accepted to appear in the exquisitely presented online journal Fictive Dream on April 15th. This will be the second time one of my stories will appear there. Anyone reading this who loves reading or writing short stories please look at Fictive dream, it's a delight. for website click here
9th January 2018
A new year gift has just arrived! I heard today that my story 'Touching Air' has been accepted to appear in issue nine of the fantastic online magazine Riggwelter. Issue nine comes out on May 1st, so I'll put a link on the story page once it appears, so it will be available to read for free.
12th December 2017
Wonderful news! An email came in this morning to say my story 'A Hidden Place' has been shortlisted for the 2017 Bedford International Writing Competition. The competition holds a special place in my heart - the organisers are delightful people who give their time freely to promote the short story form and raise money for local charities. This is the fourth story I've had shortlisted in the four years the competition has been running, and the BIWC published the first story I wrote, which gave me confidence to continue, so I feel both honoured and indebted.
29th October 2017
I've just returned the proofs for my story 'What We Are Left With', which will appear in Issue 24 of Prole magazine. The story is based on memories of a very talented Iraqi artist, who was granted asylum from the regime of Saddam Hussein. I met him while I was working in the community and watched as he started to paint again and began to build a new life. It wasn't that long ago, but the whole experience seems to belong to a different era entirely. Would it happen now?
17th October 2017
My (rather dark) story, 'When You Became Me', was published online today by Fairlight Books Oxford. I've been fascinated by the idea of a dialogue between an older self and younger self since reading letters a number of celebrities were asked to write to the person they once were, giving advice. I thought it might be interesting to approach this from a different angle, as an exploration of what can happen to potential as we grow older. I thought it might also be interesting to look at the period in time when the 'younger self' starts to become the 'older self'. 'When You Became Me' is available to read via the link next to the title on my 'Stories' page. To visit the 'Stories' page click here
25th October 2017
Wonderful news! The story mentioned below appeared in Confingo 8 earlier this week, and yesterday Nicholas Royle, editor the Best British Short Stories, contacted me to say he would like to include it in the 2018 edition. Heartfelt thanks to all at Confingo.
16th October 2017
My story ‘The Homing Instinct’ will be coming out in the next few weeks in the beautifully produced Manchester based journal Confingo for website click here. It’s about a couple of homeless people who befriend one another and are befriended in turn by a grey heron, who comes to visit them every day, for no apparent reason.
The spark for the story was seeing exactly this happen, day after day, week after week, as I walked by the river near my home. Two or three people – it varied – had set up home, very neatly and carefully, under some brick arches about fifty feet from the river bank. I came to expect to see the heron, which had exquisite plumage and a regal manner, standing near them on the grass, very still and vigilant, like some sort of omen. To me, this affinity with a normally timid wild animal of solitary habits seemed almost mystical, and I came to wonder what it might mean to them.
One Monday lunchtime, some months after the story was written, I took my normal walk only to find the arches barred with thick ironwork, presumably at the behest of the local authority: no homeless people, no carefully stacked possessions, no heron, no explanation. I was glad I’d finished the story by then, because otherwise I might not have had the heart to write it.