Never has good news been so welcome. Last year I read a biography of the great rural poet, John Clare. By profession a farm labourer, although he travelled at various times in his life he lived mostly within a small radius of his birthplace, the village of Helpston in Northamptonshire. He developed an astonishing empathy for the natural life around him, which he recorded in great detail in his poems. He enjoyed patronage but also suffered poor mental health, and I found myself trying to imagine how he might live in more modern times, for instance the 1960s. Eventually, following this line, I began to write a pastoral story, not quite a fable, called John's Oak. I'm delighted to say it has been accepted for publication in late May or early June in the superb Fictive Dream. Thanks again to its wonderful editor, Laura Black, who has supported my fiction writing more than anyone.
One of my favourite older stories, Fascination, appears today in the innovative online journal Bandit Fiction. I’ve thought a lot about the relationship, and particularly the power balance, between artist and muse, and have tried to explore some elements of it here. An earlier version of this story appeared a couple of years ago in Into the Void. You can read the new version via my Stories page here
Delighted that my story, The Structure of Shadows, appears today in Hypnopomp, a excellent online magazine that specialises in strange or experimental fiction. For a long time I’ve been interested in the gaps that can appear in the narrative of our life. Sometimes their causes are traceable, sometimes they’re simply inexplicable. Perhaps this story is about the search for wholeness. You can read it via my Stories page here
Just delighted to learn that my story Fascination will come out in Bandit Magazine on March 13th. It originally appeared in Into the Void (or should I say disappeared). This is one of my absolute favourite stories, exploring as it does the relationship between artist and muse. I'm very grateful to Greg Forrester, Managing Director of Bandit, for giving it fresh life.
I learned this week that my story Avie, which has been through even more drafts than is normal even for me, has been accepted for publication by the Dutch online journal Literati. I'll say more when it comes out (there's no date yet), but in writing it I drew on apocryphal stories that grew up around the great traditional singer Anne Briggs, by all accounts a bit of a sixties wild child (in a folk singing sort of way).
Today one of my shortest stories, Silence, appears in the excellent online journal Fragmented Voices. In it I’ve returned to the themes of memory and association that first drew me back to writing stories. The essence of the story is based on something that really happened. Grateful thanks to editors Natalie Crick and Natalie Vera for accepting it and their care in presenting it. You can read it via my story page here
My all-time favourite short novel is A Month in the Country by J.L.Carr. Since I first read it (and watched the film version with early roles for Colin Firth and Kenneth Brannagh) I’ve always wanted to write a story ostensibly about the restoration of an old church, but really probing deeper into the complexities of the human spirit. So, decades after that initial idea, my story The Chapel appears today in Eunoia Review. This is the longest story I’ve written so far, it really taxed me, and I’m very grateful to the brilliant poet Georgia Hilton for reading a draft and offering invaluable suggestions. You can read The Chapel via my Stories page here
I've just learned to my astonishment that The Fun Police has been nominated for the BIFFY (best English and Irish flash fiction) award. This took me by utter surprise, as I never set out to write at a prescribed length, so have never thought of myself as a flash fiction writer. Very grateful thanks to Cath Barton for nominating the story, also, yet again, to the wonderful Laura Black of Fictive Dream for presenting it so beautifully.
The Fun Police, I think the shortest story I've yet had published, comes out today in the state of the art online journal Fictive Dream. Sometimes a particular phrase stays in the mind, then years later takes the form of a story. The first line of The Fun Police was spoken in real life, and brought about the same outcome as in the story. You can read The Fun Police via my Stories page here
I'm delighted that a very new, very short story, Silence, has been accepted by Fragmented Voices for publication on February 14th. I rarely write anything under a thousand words, simply because I find it so hard to distil a story into such a small space, and this one taxed me considerably. I'll say more when it comes out, but I'm very pleased that it will appear in Fragmented Voices, a new, vibrant publisher whose stated aim is to reach out and include work by authors who for one reason or other might feel marginalised. I feel they will provide a valuable resource for a wide range of voices in the months and years to come.
13th January (part 2)
I've just heard that a very short story, The Fun Police, has been accepted for publication on January 26th in the state-of-the-art online journal, Fictive Dream. I'll say more about the story when it comes out, but it's wonderful to know it will appear in Fictive Dream: a brilliant editor in Laura Black, a large, supportive readership, and a superb archive of contemporary stories by a diverse range of talented authors. I feel proud to be a small part of it.
My story The Arrangement came out yesterday in the fast-growing and beautifully produced online journal Lunate Fiction. For ten years I worked in a number of voluntary sector organisations in North London. I remember this time with fondness, but it was not without it's challenges. Some improbable people, with strange motives, seemed to end up in what appears to have become known as the 'third sector'. Tensions, as they say, could emerge.... Heartfelt thanks once again to Han and Gary, Lunate editors, for giving a fine home to another of my stories. You can read The Arrangement via my Stories page here
First acceptance of the year! The longest story I've written, The Chapel, has been accepted by Eunoia Review for publication in late January. Somehow, despite the numbing effect of being dragged round old churches as a child, they've never totally lost their fascination. A student fresh from college has the task of restoring iconography in a remote chapel amidst parish intrigue (oh god - that sounds horribly Midsomer. I promise it's not!).
I've been looking towards the year ahead and trying to give it some shape. There's a residue of three stories accepted last year and yet to come out - the only certain date I have is for a longer story, The Arrangement, due to be published by Lunate Fiction on January 12th. Fascination, a small story about the relationship between an artist and muse originally published in Into the Void, will be republished by Bandit Fiction at some point. Also a story called Where the Dawn Takes Us, set on the Barry railway line in South Wales, has been accepted for Issue 12 of The Lonely Crowd. Other than that, I've been writing, re-writing and submitting in the last few weeks, also trying to compile a collection (with one strong but not definite expression of interest). Finally, if I'm honest, I'm beginning to wonder how many stories I have left in me....
Delighted that my story Sharing Space comes out in the wonderful Fictive Dream today. It's an observational piece, set in a London café. London has strange pockets of loneliness, I've found. It's a crowded environment, and those who live in it become very protective of personal space. This can have unintended consequences, as I hope the story describes. Thanks again to Laura Black, a dream of an editor, for all her support. You can read it via my Stories page here
A very recent story, In My Father's Presence, appears today in the vibrant and growing online journal Nymphs Publications. It has many personal resonances, but also draws from a decade I spent working as a therapist with people who had dementia. I'm very grateful to editors Julia and Veronika for giving this story a home, and sharing it with their readership. You can read it via my Stories page here
My story Ashingdean appears in Eunoia review today. It's drawn from a point in my life when I used to go on retreats of various sorts. I was always fascinated by the residents who lived in and ran the centres I stayed at, most of whom had sustained a lifestyle of daily spiritual practice over a significant period of time. Incidentally, in real life I did actually meet the lama that my fictional lama was based on. Decades later I discovered he had been David Bowie's teacher. Grateful thanks again to editor Ian Change for accepting this story, and for his patience with my requests for late amendments. You can read it via my Stories page here
I was delighted to discover last night that Han and Gary of Lunate Fiction have kindly nominated my story Blurred Edges for this year's Pushcart Prize. It's the second year in a row I've had a nomination, which is really validating considering the very high standard of fiction that's now being published online. The story is a particular favourite too, which makes it all the more special. I had lots of ideas in my mind, and somehow they all seemed to coalesce. In the end I fell in love with the place I was describing. You can read it via my Stories page here
I learnt yesterday that the vibrant and fast growing Lunate Fiction have accepted my story The Arrangement for publication on January 12th. I drew it from a heavy decade working sector, mainly during austerity. Somehow the story has ended up as humorous, at least I hope it has....
I'm delighted that a Julia and Veronika, editors of Nymphs Publications, have accepted a new and very personal story, 'In My Father's Presence'. It's due to be published in two weeks time, and I'll say more about it then.
My story Who We Once Were appears in Confingo 12 this week, along with excellent stories by some of my favourite writers. It's great validation to see something I've written alongside the work of authors I really admire. The story is another return to a version of my childhood streets, though this being fiction they've become a lot darker and stranger. It's odd that a smattering of suburban roads can loom so large in the imagery I still carry about decades later. Confingo is a superb magazine and I'm honoured to have placed another story there.
Very excited to have two stories appearing in Issue 29 of Prole Magazine. Goat Girl was one of those gifts that just floats down through the top of your head. It's about a remote mountain community and a silent and very self-possessed young woman who has a special place within it. My Friend the Oktavist was first published in the sadly short-lived London Journal of Fiction. Oktavists have the rarest voice in the world - they sing a full octave below bass. The two protagonists struggle to decide if this is a blessing or curse. If you've never heard an oktavist please do google it. You won't believe what you hear. Many thanks to Brett and Phil - it's always an honour to have a story in Prole, let alone two. If you'd like to buy a copy you'll find a link via my Stories page here
Alex’s Blue Bag is another story drawn from the streets of my childhood. There was an ‘Alex’, who wore make-up at a time when boys simply didn't do such things. As in the story, he did get bullied, and I’ve always remembered him. This represents my fiftieth accepted publication, and I’m honoured that it appears in Fictive Dream, the state of the art online journal. Grateful thanks to Laura Black, editor, mentor and champion of the short story. You can read the story via my Stories page here
I've just learned that my story Fascination, which originally appeared in Into the Void, has been accepted for republication by Bandit Magazine. I'm delighted because it's about a subject that has always fascinated me: the relationship between artist and muse (so I suppose the title has a double meaning). It should be coming out before Christmas, and when it does I'll be able to make it available online for the first time.
Wonderful unexpected news, and things have just got even busier. I've just heard from John Lavin, editor of the superb The Lonely Crowd, that he has accepted my story Where the Dawn Takes Us for Issue 12. I'd submitted it in February, and thought it had fallen by the wayside. The story is about a train conductress working on the Barry line in South Wales, so The Lonely Crowd will be a perfect home for it.
A very busy and exciting time. Starting on Sunday, six stories are due to come out over the next six weeks, three online and three hard copy. I'll say more as they appear, and will make the online stories available as usual via my stories page. Thanks so much to everyone who takes the time to read, and especially to those who kindly send a comment.
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.