I wanted to do a clever title for this post about teaching grandma to suck eggs or something but it didn’t work out

Surprise! I love short stories. Yup. And I have a short story display case at work which I refresh every week, putting in my favourites, trying to make it enticing and irresistible. A woman came into the shop and asked where the short stories were, so I was yay and delighted, and showed her “my” selection, and then showed her the shelves where other anthologies are and so on. And I couldn’t resist asking if she was a short story buff as she ended up buying six or seven books. And she said no, she wasn’t, didn’t read them, didn’t know anything about them, but she has to teach the subject at Uni this term.

ūüė¶

See You Next Tuesday – The second coming

I have a story in this new anthology published by Better Non Sequitur. These are fifty 1,000 word stories with a sex theme. (Mine is definitely not erotica) – in the words of the publisher:

Not only are people all around the world having lots of sex, but they are also writing about it. See You Next Tuesday: The Second Coming is the second compilation of 50 sex-riddled (first-published) short fictions that try to transcend perhaps the most universal subject in existence.

Writing from across the globe, each 1,000-word text promises to evoke and provoke the existential and thoughtful corners of your most erotic of organs (namely the one in your head). In other words, the rumors are true, the waiting has ended: The Second Coming is here!

Awesome new literary journal (with me in) – CEllA’S Round Trip

Today sees the launch of a fantastic new literary and visionary journal. ¬†CEllA’S Round Trip¬†has been created and edited by Rachel Hartley-Smith. Please check it out, I know that you’ll be blown away by the visuals and the writing.

It includes two stories by me. Hurrah! 
Fire Words and Steak and Beer Р(Steak and Beer is my attempt at a Bukowski pastiche!)
It is a real delight to be in such a stunning journal. 

Given away free with Time Out!

I have subscribed to Time Out for years and years.¬†Today my weekly copy arrived, and squee, I’m in it! Or rather, Porn Mallow, a story of mine, is in it. Or to be more exact, my story is in Litro, which is being given away free with Time Out.

Anyway, I am delighted to be one of three authors in this edition of Litro. Funnily enough one of the other writers is Vanessa Gebbie which is rather ace.
Big thanks to lovely Litro!

The story that I can’t write

I had this idea for a story well over a year ago. I wrote it but something didn’t quite work. I posted it for critique in The Fiction Workhouse. They said it had many flaws and suggested I concentrate on one part and cut another. I left it to simmer. I have kept on thinking about it, wondering how it could be strengthened. I sat down recently and tried again. I thought I’d had some great inspirational idea. I cut parts ruthlessly, wrote some new bits. I left in the stuff that had positive feedback, expanded it. Then I asked a couple of writers whose opinions I respect to take a look. One said there was too much that was unrealistic and I should chop those parts. I did. I sent it to another 2 writers. They both said, hmmm, not your best work, and it could really do with some more magic. One even went on to¬†describe¬†exactly what I had cut.

Still, nobody actually thinks it “good’. And I¬†have¬†been left utterly baffled. I think I have lost what my original vision was, and in trying to please I may well¬†have¬†cut the heart out.
I’d love to know if any of the other writers who read this have been defeated by one particular story. Does it mean the story is doomed? Or perhaps I just haven’t found the right way to tell it yet.

Bang Crunch by Neil Smith

The collection opens with Isolettes and the arresting line 

Blue tube, green tube, clear tube, fat tube.

However, perhaps the author is not sure enough either of his own voice, or of the reader’s ability to get it, so follows up with A Dr Seuss rhyme. Yes, thanks, got that. Never mind, he continues with an image of a premature baby that is so entirely unexpected and yet spot on, that I was astonished. That is just the opening page.¬†

There is so much here, sometimes too much. The text of Isolettes is thick with puns: 

Nick U Nick off 

The pent-up suite 

If marriage is an institution married people should be institutionalised. 

Pushing through though is a tender understanding for character that gives heart to this and the majority of the other stories. 

Green fluorescent protein is a bittersweet tale about a 17-year-old boy coming to terms with his sexuality. At home his alcoholic mother talks to the ashes of his dead father, at play Ruby-Doo, the skinny bookish science fan he befriends, confuses his feelings. There are more of Smith s accurate descriptions: 

‚ĶRuby-Doo does the fake crowd roar ‚Äď the hushed wahhhh ‚Äď I taught him.¬†

These are people that we meet again in Funny weird or funny ha ha? and whilst I am a huge fan of the short story form it felt like there was such warmth and depth to this trio of unusual characters that I would welcome reading a novel about them. The B9ers are a support group for people who have had benign tumours. Bang Crunch is the story of the extraordinary Eepie Carpetrod, whose rare syndrome makes her live her life in fast forward, aging rapidly, racing towards death. 

Occasionally it seemed to me that Smith thought of a witty phrase and then wrote a paragraph around it.Extremities is an idea that failed in my opinion as he writes of gloves that yearn for a particular hand, and a talking foot. 

The last story,¬†Jaybird¬†is also the longest. It centres on a group of Montreal-based actors. Benoit Dor√©, a man whose “‚Ķlaid-back look was a lie. His mussed-up hair came courtesy of a mud putty that had set him back twelve bucks”, mentors a woman who works at an agency looking after actors’ interests, and she uses the opportunity to take revenge on her clients. The story twists nastily along and I read, wincing. At the end though, there is much needed possibility and hope. Like so many collections, the quality is up and down according to the strength of individual stories, but this is a good introduction to Neil Smith, and I look forward to reading more of him.

(I wrote this piece for The Short Review)