This is my writing blog, where I will be shamelessly posting my work. Poems, short stories, flash fiction, extracts from novels...they'll all be here. And if you don't like any of that, just play with the tiger.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Been and gone and done it

Well. I have dithered, displaced and procrastinated for all I'm worth, but this day had to come sooner or later. The synopsis is written (perhaps I should say 'garbled') and the letter signed. Four chapters have had their hair combed, their collective coat duffled, and their face scrubbed with a hankie (clean). I have pressed an emergency 50p into their palm and sent them off into the world to try their luck.
My first novel has gone to its first agent. All I can do now is pace anxiously up and down the study's shagpile until the reply comes. I have a fair idea of what that reply will be (probably all four chapters, letter, and synopsis sent winging back by return of post, tetchily rubber-stamped with the legend 'DO US A FAVOUR; WE'RE NOT DESPERATE'), but never mind. Now, until the post comes, I'll be quietly rehearsing consolatory lines to myself...
It's all about luck.
Just keep on trying; you'll get there in the end.
*sniffle* what do agents know, anyway?
And then when the 'no' arrives, I will dissolve into a weeping, snotty mess, bewailing the fate of my poor, unappreciated baby.
If anyone tries to tell you that writing is all fun, send them to me and I will rubber-stamp their forehead.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Sulky Sunday Haiku

Weekend creeps darkly,
trickles past swift and silent
to hide in the past.

Moving with the times

The water was once zingily refreshing with its salt tang. Now it grew hot, thick, and swam with noxious gases. The fish was aware of his body’s mass for the first time, as he churned and struggled through the roiling current. His gills flapped in helpless desperation. Oxygen. Must have oxygen.
He struggled on, compelled by his choking cells. The water grew murkier as he passed a decaying plesiosaur, whose flesh flaked away to create a turgid soup. Normally he would rejoice at the sight – one less predator was no bad thing – but instead he felt primitive horror as he skirted through the gloom. Most of the plesiosaur’s skeleton was looming above the water line. The sea was almost gone.
The fish felt his brain would burst. He had to act. With instinctive panic, he swam into bubbling mud. He opened his gills to the air. Breathed. Evolved.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

The other Tyrone

This is a snippet from the 'novel' I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year (see for details). Before reading, please be aware that there is a naughty word in there...I don't want to offend any delicate sensibilities. So - Tyrone:

A couple of hours into lessons, as Tyrone was industriously identifying himself with Hamlet, a worried-looking secretary poked her head round the door. She waited until Mr Delaware became aware of her presence, then tiptoed stagily in on her high heels. The two adults held a whispered conference, during which Mr Delaware’s usually florid face turned ashen and grey. His eyes swept the room, seeming unwilling to land on anyone in particular. The whole class was goggling; something was afoot evidently.
‘Mr Butler? A moment, please.’ Mr Delaware beckoned Tyrone with his entire arm.
A whisper hissed around the class. What had Tyrone done? What had been done to Tyrone? Was he going to get out of class?
Aware of the weight of eyes upon him, Tyrone felt a slight flush creep over his cheeks. The combined woe in the faces of Mr Delaware and the secretary told him that something enormous and unpleasant was about to be revealed to him. For a fraction of a second he was convinced that Miss Gottlieb had gone to the police and told them that he had violated her, but the thought died almost as soon as it was born. She wouldn’t do that to him. Not Miss Gottlieb. His shoes made a sucking noise as he walked to the front of the class in surreal slow motion.
The secretary and Mr Delaware each placed a hand on his shoulder and steered him out of the room. Tyrone was strangely aware of the school’s insistent, peculiar smell: poorly cooked burgers; gently spiced sweat; cheap deodorant.
‘Be brave, young man,’ said Mr Delaware, his gruff tones strangely hushed.
‘What? What is it?’ Tyrone was mildly freaked out by now.
The secretary stood square in front of him and put her hands on his shoulders. Her red lips wobbled as she tried to formulate words.
‘What?’ yelled Tyrone. ‘For Chrissake, what happened?’
‘We…we had a call from the fire department. There was an explosion or something in the block where you live and they wanted to check you were in school.’
Tyrone stared at her, noticing how the fine down on her upper lip was picked out by the sunlight streaming through the window opposite. Her breath smelled slightly of coffee. He slowly realised that he should say something. ‘A – an explosion? What happened?’
‘They’re not sure yet, but they think a gas leak. Looks like it started in your apartment.’ She swallowed a sudden sob. ‘I’m so sorry sweetheart – but your…your grandparents. They didn’t make it.’
Tyrone suddenly felt that either he was very big or the world was very small. Everything zoomed into minute focus. ‘Gramps and Grandma? No. No.’ He began to struggle in the secretary’s arms, and Mr Delaware reached out a restraining hand.
‘Easy, son,’ he said in almost a whisper. Tyrone collapsed against him, uttering nameless noises. ‘Easy. Easy, son.’

I make it to the bathroom just in time. As I kneel there disgorging horror into porcelain, Tyrone sidles in. He raises a laconic eyebrow.
‘Something you ate?’ he asks smoothly. ‘Or too much to drink?’
I stare at him before the back of the toilet bowl reclaims my attention. Tyrone eases himself down beside me and holds back my hair, showing no distaste.
O nce it’s over, I wipe my mouth on toilet paper and shrink away from him. ‘Your grandparents.’

‘Yeah. It was a shame.’
He helps me up even though I don’t want him to touch me. He looks quietly amused. I splash water on my face and in my mouth, then brush my teeth. Tyrone leans on the door frame and watches me. I am shaking everywhere in what feels like fifty directions at once.
‘A shame? Is that all you can say?’
He stares at me evenly.
‘You did it, didn’t you.’ It’s a statement, not a question. ‘You. The gas leak. Them having colds. Dirk’s pipe. You.’
‘Accident.’ He yawns and stretches. ‘The fire department said so. Old people just get forgetful. I guess Grandma never realised she’d put that pan of soup on the stove and not lit it properly. Everybody said it was a miracle I wasn’t there at the time.’ He leans right into me and I smell the JD on his breath. ‘A fucking miracle.’
The nausea returns, with force. Once I’m empty I turn back to him with tears in my eyes.
‘ You must admit it’s strange, Tyrone. All the people who you think have crossed you seem to wind up dead.’
He is holding my hair again, and he suddenly pulls it tight at the nape of my neck and coils it over his fist. In that quick movement I am made horribly, vulnerably aware of his strength. He pulls my head back so that my face is virtually in his.
‘That’s the thing with people, honey,’ he says quietly and evenly. ‘They all wind up dead, sooner or later.’


She hums softly as she dusts. You are my sunshine – Mother always loathed that song. Or did Mother just loathe her humming it? She shifts the silver-framed slice of Bali beach, a relic from Karen’s wedding, fractionally to the left. Her eyes gloss over her photo-self, clammy in her finery, holding her wilted posy. Always the bridesmaid, Mother had said acidly.
The pewter trinket box gets nudged forwards. It holds a lock of curled wheaten hair, shorn from Margot’s first born. Mother had cooed frigidly over the baby, then delivered her shot.
Shame you’ll never have any. What man would want to impregnate a frump like you?
She moves the charcoal sketch of her cat, Harry, from the mantelpiece, and props it against a bland lidded urn. Look, Harry, she says as he twines round her calves. Now Mother’s on the shelf, too.

Monday, 23 July 2007


The eclipse is total. She takes small steps, but tartan trolley crosses paths with 4x4 as it docks into its slot. Wheel orbits collide; gravity takes charge. Spinning over the eternity of dark tarmac, oranges bounce and roll into the distance, nestling into their own patch of blackness and cowering like small suns. The bottle of Cava will never now touch down on son-in-law’s birthday table; it explodes on first contact with painted white line and sends glass sharding away to form glistening nebulae. The contents fizz and plume into the air, leaping like flares bursting from the sun. Cherry tomatoes jolt from their plastic cocoon and patter away, red dwarves impelled into the distance. Only the ground is still, an impassive canvas where chaos spreads. The old lady, screaming silently, her mouth a ragged black hole, looks into her trolley, wondering when the Big Bang within will cease spewing.

Monday haiku

Mechanical traipse
round bleak, morning-hushed office.
My brain's still in bed.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

A bite to eat

He brushed the drop of sweat from the tip of his nose just in time. Imagine if it had fallen into the soup – it would ruin everything. Even one molecule of salt too many, and he’d taste it. He wouldn’t have the meal ruined, or any subsequent ones – he was thrilled to see that there was plenty of soup for freezing, too.
The oven pinged conscientiously, and he twirled balletically to rescue the pie. Cradling it on wire rack, he experimentally touched the sides of the earthenware casserole dish. Nicely cool – he decanted the contents into a series of Tupperware lunchboxes and wrote finicky labels.
His cooking frenzy was almost over. This lot would keep him going for weeks, and every mouthful would stave off his mind-searing loneliness. He smiled as he basted the gawping head. It was lovely to have a friend for dinner once in a while.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Friday musings

Ahh, Friday...
Now, don't get me wrong, my day job never ceases to suffuse my soul with delight, but there's something wonderfully cheering about a Friday. Two glorious days stretch in front of me, and from here it almost feels like they'll never end, the way the six-week holidays used to seem back in the misty warmth of my youth. I know that is a preposterous assertion, but I don't care. Two days to myself should be plenty to make great advances in all sorts of areas - I could clean the house (ha!), rattle out a short story, and contact Interpol regarding my wayward poetry muse. Or, regrettably, I could (and will, I know) stay in bed until noon, make one or two half-assed attempts at doing something vague and unnecessary, then go and have a nap.
How I love my weekends.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Sunday dinner

Storm surge of gravy
spills over creamy mash banks -
peas drift on the tide

What I've been doing when not displacing...

My first novel - a children's book about a young lad who befriends a miniature talking gorilla - is almost on the verge of being sent out into the world to seek its fortune, if I can ever get that pesky synopsis written. This is scary and exciting in equal measure...contacting agents and so on seems like a grown-up, writerly thing to do, but I just know I will dissolve into a howling mass of hurt feelings and outraged dismay once the rejections start rolling in, like a pushy parent whose kid never gets picked for the school team. Still, I've got to try, haven't I?

I've recently finished one short story, set in the First World War (a literary obsession of mine), and I have another one (not set in WWI - I don't want to typecast myself) mired in an indeterminate stage of editing. I know it needs to be slashed and beaten into shape in a hard-faced manner, but I can't decide which bits to cull. Hey ho.

My poetry muse, such as it ever was, has packed up and gone on a long holiday. If you see it, could you please send it home? I'll even pay for its excess baggage.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007


You'd think writing the novel would be the arduous part, wouldn't you? But oh no, once the novel is written and you have tearfully hacked big bleeding chunks from it in a frenzy of editing, you have to write the synopsis. This blog exists largely because of my increasingly sly and desperate attempts to get out of synopsis-writing. The one feeble draft I have churned out (at around the rate of one sentence per hour) reads like the stories I used to write as a kid. There is this character and something happens to him and then something else happens and it's really bad but then in the end everything is ok. I'm not anticipating a huge publishing advance any time soon.

Weighted Words

left her like a stick;
just walking angles and concavities.
Eyes shrunken, hair thin –
a ruled line, nothing more.

used to feed her laugh.
Made her sensuous, alive
to pleasure; she was glossy,
piquant, moreish – saucy.

she missed the warmth
of flesh on her bones,
she turned round, and said,
‘I was made to be this shape’.

Can't see the...

The mighty oak. He was impressed. All that height and mass, silently drawing nutrients up from the soft earth. Its leaves whispered and waved to him, and, despite knowing it was foolish, he felt a primeval kinship with the tree. Tree. The very word sounded strong and reliable, quietly throbbing with life. He looked furtively around, saw nobody was near, and embraced the bark. It was rough, but not harsh. He could have stayed forever with his tree, sitting calmly in its fresh dappled shade.
It wasn’t to be. His Female Sibling Droid came gliding up. You should see the next room, she whirred. It shows all the different fuels they ate. They spent so many units of time preparing it. Fools!
He lingered, reluctant to leave his tree, but she nagged. Come on, BoyDroid RD12!
He activated his camera module, careful to include the label - EARTH’S LAST LIVING TREE – and followed.

With thanks to Graeme