Tuesday, 6 October 2015

What have they got in common?

Apart from the geometry, what do these images all have in common?

They all feature in the flash fiction story "Overpass", one of the tales in the flash fiction collection "Extra-Curricular" out now in paperback and e-version.

The story progresses as these images, from the sedate to the sinister and the title "Overpass" is reversed by the tale's end to "Passover"


Monday, 5 October 2015

What Have These Images All Got In Common?




They all involve the humble human wrist and they all appear in the flash fiction story "Wrist Assessment" in my new collection "Extra-Curricular".

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Men's Names Songs

There are so many songs penned to the muse or a lost lover as I covered in a previous music chart, but maybe not quite so many for men's names. Here's a chart to partially redress the balance. As you'll see, these are songs mainly by men and male bands, unlike the many paeans to women made by men.

1) Department S - "Is Vic There"?
A John Peel favourite and very hip post-punk band to like, although I can't actually remember any of their other songs.

2) Au Pairs - "Dear John"
The only females to appear in this whole chart. There are a few Country & Western female singers bemoaning their men by name, but I can't stand C&W so none of it gets in here I'm afraid. My blog, my rules!

3) Stiff Little Fingers - "Johnny Was"
Cover version of a Bob Marley song. I've never actually heard the original. Always a favourite at their live shows for me.

4) Undertones - "Jimmy Jimmy"
Classic pop-punk. They also had a song called "What's With Terry" and another called "There Goes Norman" and when you see singer Feargal Sharkey's coat you realise this was the original boy band singing about boys' problems, not what we mean when we utter the dread phrase Boy band these days.

5) Sham 69 ' "Hurry Up Harry"
Less classic yet strangely more successful pop-punk in terms of chart placing. Harry doesn't go down the pub these days, can't afford the prices. So in the video, you've got the guitarist wearing a Union Jack t-shirt, but the drummer sports a backward facing baseball cap, some identity confusion in evidence there.

6) XTC - "Making Plans For Nigel"
Another unexpected chart hit, but not really representative of a band who desperately tried to forge a British rock/pop sound that didn't really on the Blues influence on rock and roll.

7) Smiths - "William It Was Really Nothing"
As I don't like the Smiths, this is here grudgingly. My blog, my rules. Oh no wait... 

8) Jimi Hendrix - "Hey Joe"
Classic song about a man who feels his woman done him wrong.

9) T-Rex - "Telegram Sam"
Not quite "Ride A Swan", but one of the few acceptable glam artists before punk tried to sweep all that away.

10) Elvis Costello - "Oliver's Army"
Elvis Costello started out as a punk, but like so many eventually moved into where his true musical roots, somewhere between the balladeer and country and western. Punk rock gave a leg up to many artists who were dubbed punk but in retrospect never were really.

11) Tom Robinson Band - "Martin"
Aw, sweet sentiment, a criminal big brother who tries to do right by his baby brother.

12) Monochrome Set - "He's Frank"
This was an A-Side single that had the far superior "Alphaville" backing it. They were a band who when they played live stood stock still on stage while a screen had film projections of them moving. Odd.

13) Birthday Party - "Nick The Stripper"
I love the video for this, that lifting of the tent flap inviting you to come in to the strange carney world beyond. 

14) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - "Box For Black Paul"
When Nick Cave left the Birthday Party for a solo career, this was one of the songs from his debut album. It evidenced his tendency for literary writing in his lyrics, or perhaps over-writing, but I do love this song.

15) Pink Floyd - "Careful With That Axe Eugene"
And did Eugene listen? Not to judge by the screams towards the end of the song.

16) Lemonheads - "It's A Shame About Ray"
Never was much of a Lemonheads fan, but many were.

17) Black Flag - "Louie Louie"
Cover version of the classic Kingsmen song. Only when singer Henry Rollins says he's going on a killing spree, you believe him.

18) The Specials - "Message To Rudy"
Another cover version, this time of a song by Dandy Livingstone. As with everything the Specials touched, this was pure gold.

19) Eminem - "Stan"
Not a paean to Stan Collymore, just one of Eminem's intricately created characters in song.

20) REM - "What's The Frequency Kenneth"?
Again, not a band I was overly a fan of, but I did remember liking this title when it came out.

Bonus Track:

The Who - "Boris The Spider"
Only the anachronistic dates prevent this being an ode penned to the departing Mayor of London... This is what happens when you let the bassist in the band pen a song.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Iconocataclysm - Friday Flash

You swore an eternal vow to me. Pledged me your soul. Therefore I should be your solitary votive veneration. Yet your adoration is devoted to this lump of wood. When have you ever entreated me like you do this icon? When was the last time you prostrated yourself before me in such supplication? When you made your proposal of marriage down on one knee, that’s the closest to rubbing your face in the dirt as you do for your Mary there. 

And your purring susurrations offered up to her blockish ears, when was I ever the recipient of such tender exaltation? The only thing about these words that she shares with me, is that they are scripted for you, since you lack for any imagination of your own. 

Don’t you know, that isn’t any radiant halo emanating from behind her head? Rather it’s the searchlight from a gulag watchtower. She’s no less a miserable prisoner than me. She fails to  illuminate anything, since her so called hallowed head only eclipses the rays. 

It’s jut a trick of the light anyway. Down here in your dingy dungeon. You would have nothing without your beeswax candles to cast their feeble shine so that the gold leaf can amplify it. There is so much precious leaf poured into this one image, it suggests you spent more money to procure her than you would do to keep you wife. Augmented by you clearly spending money to cense her, rather than buy me scents and perfumes to draw you close to me. 

Don’t think I haven’t seen you betray me with her. You could kiss her on the cheek, her forehead or the hand that cups the infant. Yet you opt to osculate her paint-caked lips with the very passion withheld from me in the marital bed. Perhaps you only like virgins and I became tarnished for you on our wedding night. I see the rapture in your eyes as you press your face to hers, yet I am cursorily pecked with your peepers shuttered. 

So I will reclaim your Judas and Mary kisses. I will inject some real fervour into them. Touch up the paint work, by envenoming her lips with my tinctures of arsenic. Each time you brush her lips with your own, will inject some more of my stigmatic dose of mortification. My lip-salve salvation. Slowly purging you of your misconceived and misplaced ardour. No one will ever suspect this to be by my hand. But do not worry my sweet, you can lie eternal with her your one true love. For I will consign her image into your coffin to keep you company.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Book Launch Day is here!

So today is the day, publication of my 5th collection of flash fiction and my 9th book in all.

"Extra-Curricular" contains 44 flash stories (45 in the print edition), themed around a secondary (High) school timetable.

The stories are bite-sized in length, many running no longer than 500 words so perfect commuter reading or reading on the go on your mobile devices. Bite-sized, but all will make you think because they are packed with ideas and startling images.

For a list of the themes of all the stories you can go here.

For a visual image gallery behind some of the stories you can go here.

For the prompts behind many of the stories you can go here.

And the trailer is here, the first story in the collection called "Night Vision"

I hope you enjoy the stories, I'm really excited by this collection.

Available from Amazon and I-Tunes

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Plié Plea - Friday Flash

The girls were too young for it to be dubbed an audition, but indubitably that’s what they were. And she was never selected either  in the coryphee or for a duet. Or perish the thought, for a solo.

She was also too callow to be able to put it down to her ballerina’s costume. She knew it didn’t match those bespoke shop-bought ones sported by all the other nymphs, being more peach than pink. Her mother had fashioned it for her from an old bridesmaid’s dress she herself had worn in those days when she too yearned to be picked.

As she trudged back home after another fruitless audition, she barely raised the soles of her ballet shoes from the pavement. A far cry from the swoops and whisks she had so recently performed at the barre. But then she was stopped dead in her tracks by a sight in somebody’s front lawn…

She ran rather than skipped home. She tugged at her mother’s apron as she stood over the sink lathering dishes. “Mum, can we go visit the zoo?”

“Sure, I think I’m free this weekend”

“No now. It has to be now? Can’t you leave the dishes?”

“Well okay, I guess… But don’t you want to go change out of your ballet things?”

Her daughter shook her head vigorously and started to tug at the apron strings to encourage her mother to prepare her own array.

Her mother paid the entrance fee, silently crossing off some other activities as she balanced the budget in her mind. As she put the change back in her purse, her daughter was already studying the map laying out the animal displays around the park. The well-trodden earth at the foot of the map had turned to dust and already her mother was seething at the folly of standing there in the delicate peach fabric of ballet shoes. “Shall we start with the monkey house? They’re always entertaining?”

Her daughter grabbed her hand and marched them both off determinedly. “Where are we going?” but she received no reply from the firm set of her daughter’s countenance. The passed the monkeys and the reptiles. They wafted by the giraffes at ground level and the big cat enclosure behind the fiercest of metal bars. They slowed their gait at the sea lion pool but continued beyond them.

And then they were, stopped in front of the pond with a variety of wading birds. Her daughter dropped her mother’s hand and gripped the railing with both of hers like a prison inmate. She pressed one of her cheeks through the bars which distorted her features in a discomfiting manner.

Her mother was about to pull her back, when her hand was stayed as her daughter raised one foot off the ground and bent it to abut her knee. She released one hand from the railing and brought it up straight pointing towards the sky above her head. She recalled the position from her own stunted ballet days. Her daughter was executing a passé relevé, using the railing as an impromptu barre.

Then it struck her, she was echoing the stance of the flamingos on one leg with their gracefully curved necks. And surprisingly their colour was none too divergent from that of her daughter’s peach tutu. She had always assumed flamingos were a shocking shade of pink. Ballerina pink. But not these specimens. She espied a keeper and asked him why their colour was not the expected pink. He explained that it was due to them being in captivity, that there was no way to replicate their natural diet with its high levels of carotene that coloured their plumage. The mother didn’t notice her daughter nod agreement on the word ‘captivity’.


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Reading Live

Few writers have acting or voice training. Some like me have profoundly uninteresting voices to listen to. I always used to shy away from making videos of me just stood there to camera droning on.

But reading live is I believe absolutely vital for any author. Not only as the most immediate way to connect with your audience, but also through reading over your work you nearly always come to see new things in it, or learn to see some of the unconscious processes that informed the work that you were unaware of until now.

I took my cue from poetry slams where the poets performed their words. That is through gesture and movement they brought their words to life, literally embodying their words, or acting them out. Now poets usually have one advantage over prose story writers, that is their rhythms and rhymes means they are far more likely to have committed their words to heart, freeing them to move and gesture uninhibited. Writers are usually rooted with the book in one hand.

So I have one arm/hand free to gesture. Yet even with one arm you can draw quite a visual picture. The hand is an organ of intimacy, either reaching out, or clasping, stroking, punching or whatever. When I rehearse any story for reading live, I am choreographing what my arm is doing, matching it to specific words and phrases. Such movements also help me pace the reading of the words, like a conductor only I'm conducting myself.

There are still some restrictions, mainly arriving around the fixity of the mic. So for example, you can't sink down into a crouch if the text suggests it, which was a pity for one of my pieces "Wings" which I read last night at the Brixton Book Jam. But you can still do a lot and in the case of that story, about a junky angel, I furled and unfurled my wings as arms, the book-free arm doing just that bit more than the book-cradling arm, because jiggling the book up and down makes it a tad tough to read the words! You also have to ensure your motions don't take your mouth too far away from the mic, so that when I enacted looking up at an ultrasound screen for my other story "Echoes", only a slight turn of the head is enough to suggest it, simply because you are no longer at that point looking straight out into the audience.

I don't have a video of last night's performance, but you can listen to it here. My stories are in set 2, 33 minutes in.