Thursday, 11 November 2010

I started doing #fridayflash when I put all other writing aside in order to promote and market my self-published novel. But as you probably all know, the ideas don't stop throwing themselves at you like wanton strumpets and flash writing in small bites seemed the perfect solution to feeding the piranha fish nipping at my synapses. Well it's been a year now with just one week missed and the art of flash has taught me a lot about writing. But I yearn to return to the longer novel form. I've got 3 other novels all in finished drafts, but can't decide how to proceed with them. Then there is the labyrinthine WIP I set aside at 40,000 words in, the time the published novel came out. But the twin prompts of NANO (which I'm only shadowing, not doing formally) and approaching my life-long nemesis of genre fiction have combined to give me the solution - a wholly new book and yes, a whole new direction for me as it's genre-based! Having started it on Sunday last, here's the opening 1000 words serving for my #fridayflash this week.


The two outriders slew their front wheels across the gravel, each throwing up a little cloud of brown dust. There was no other motion as the particles forged their sedate, wispy descent back to earth. Only once this tiny portion of the landscape had been allowed to resettle itself, did the two men faceless behind their mirror visors permit themselves to stir. They flicked their kick stands and adjusted their body weight to let their bikes sag from under them as the levers bore the burden of steel and chrome. Still in perfect unison like synchronsied swimmers, the men dismount and remove their leather gloves. One stares ahead of him, while the other surveyed where they had just come from. He spies the outline of a sleek saloon slowly growing larger as it gobbles up his own bike tracks, like Theseus retracing his route through the labyrinth marked by string. He briefly looks over his shoulder at his partner, the statuary symmetry between the pair finally sundered. The other curls his index finger tip to tip with his thumb and jags the 'aok' gesture back at him. They await the arrival of the car.

The car's tyres throw up a quartet of dust nebulae, out-muscling and out-trumping that of the outriders. But these brumes dissipate and disperse as if the car had wanted to spite their reunification with the ground. Behind the dark tint of its windows, the car sits utterly still, like a cat ready to pounce in the long grass. Not even the slowing revolutions and cooling of the extinguished engine dared broach the bated breath of the moment. Finally the tension is broken by the passenger window being cracked with the apologetic whine of low voltage electricity. The nearest outrider marches stiffly up to the car, ducks down to fill the purview of the voided glass. His voice little more inflected than the dull drone of the lowered window. He rights himself erect, steps a couple of paces back, then opens the door as if trying to die stamp himself. From within the interior, one trousered leg swivels, flexes and braces itself against the ground. Followed by a second. The further outrider can only see a pair of black leather shoes beneath the plimsoll line of the open car door. Virtually every day they play out this same scene in different settings, but never with any variation in the actions, the angularity and the algebra. A natural choreography evinced between men of rank.

The leather shoes pivot and the plimsoll line sinks as the mass extrudes itself from the upholstery. The outrider muses his habitual bafflement as to how so huge a bulk can be squeezed into such a confined space. The start of the old joke about how you get a family of elephants inside a Mini plays through his mind, but as usual he can never reclaim the punchline since the man mountain is barking queries at him that demand his attention. His partner is pointing beyond and the gelatinous mass of the superior's head makes an elliptical motion that could be either nod or shake, such are its indeterminate boundaries. Damn, it's happened again. The rear seat passenger has slipped out unnoticed and unremarked. Certainly the car's chassis never even dipped half an inch. For a big cheese, the luminary was awfully small in stature. Mousy. Bird-like. As gauzy as the dust cloud pressed out under his bike wheel. The superior is clearly exasperated that yet again the VIP has emerged on his own cognizance and not at that of himself who is supposed to be running the show. His bear of an arm extends, virtually eclipsing the whole of the cock sparrow. "We haven't established the security of the area yet". The VIP passenger approaches the superior officer and limbos under the outstretched arm without having to crook his body at all. "We've got a forensics team working at the site haven't we?" The larger man's redundant blockading arm drops with an audible displacement of air. "Nobody is trying to wipe out a forensics team. There's nothing to be gained from it". The large man moved swiftly in defiance of his girth, in order to interpose himself in front of Tiny Tim who had started to walk further into the gravel.

The smaller man could not help but be impressed with the man's dedication. If there was a sniper out there and he discharged a round into his covering minder, he fancied the man might deflate like letting the air out of a blow-up balloon. Presumably that's why he had been given the detail. But this whole rigmarole, outriders, bullet-proof saloon, tinted windows, minder, it just made him so uncomfortable. Giving the misleading impression that he himself was some kind of dignitary. When there was never any way to dignify these scenes he was charged with attending. Death scenes.

Fortunately, in the most miserable of circumstances that is, the present circumstance appeared to be in so blighted a spot, there was no crowd of bystanders. No members of his personal fan club to cheerlead him in his work, when all that was called for was a respectful quiet for the deceased. His presence usually engendered a delirious crowd which soon managed to turn every murder scene into a red carpet vigil. When the red carpet was usually woven of blood. But then there were flibbertigibbets at hangings of old, so maybe he shouldn't be so condemnatory. No Press today either, which was a blessed relief. Sometimes they deigned to turn their cameras on the scene of crime, but mostly they didn't even bother. They tended to be the celebrity pap smearers, rather than from the crime desk. Always their telephoto lens were pointed at him, Simon Moralee. Queasy superstar of the criminal investigation world. Maybe that's also why "Jellyneck" Morton had been selected as his minder, to block the clear shots of camera lenses as much as rifles, though the department was never averse to the unfailingly good publicity Simon raked in on their behalf.

Simon Moralee, the man who always got his man (or woman). The man possessed of a unique ability, which made him god's gift to the profession. Which every day made him want to turn his back on it all. If he ever took that fatal step, then indeed he would require a protection squad. For the populace would tear him limb from limb in such circumstance. And in passing over into death, he would be able to finger every one of his killers as his last act on earth. Providing a neat circularity to his life. Back to that moment his gift-curse first announced itself to him. When at seven years old he cupped his mother's lifeless head in his arms. And had a searingly clear image of her killer revealed to him.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Author Reading - "A,B&E"

Here is a 5 minute reading from my novel "A,B&E".

It's called "Ladettes on Tour" and answers the question why I'm wearing a bridal veil with devil horns.


Thursday, 4 November 2010

Café Sensorium - Friday Flash

The seats in the bar fulfilled their function through being wholly impractical. They were the brainchild of an award winning designer, or possibly an ex-member of military intelligence with a penchant for torture interrogations. For the seat backs stretched on for ever, so that it was virtually impossible to nestle in them. If one managed to, then the pain in the fully distended calves and hamstrings made any protracted sitting back unbearable.

At the opening night press conference, the designer had defended his execution of the brief. Stating that the bar was a realm of leisure and pleasure, in contradistinction from the office. These seats demanded a different posture from the workaday sedentary, one that resolutely wrung out the spasmed musculature sculpted by the swivel chair. One of his interlocutors challenged him as to how such logic applied to the manual worker, he who laboured by the sweat of his brow and almost certainly uprightly. The designer just blinked the question back incredulously, with the crystal implication that manual workers would not be welcomed in this bar and perhaps more pertinently, would be unlikely to afford the cover price.

Whatever the body and class politics of the seating ergonomics, they did ensure all conversations were conducted with the sitters perched forward on the end of their chairs. Thereby projecting them slightly more confrontationally towards one another then might be the usual proprieties. However another feature of the venue, was that on securing privileged entry, patrons were handed special house lip salve tubes. They were encouraged, though not compelled, to apply these to their labia, whereupon the alchemy contained within served to pronounce the lips, while also blanching out the facial features bordering them. The overall effect was to foster a series of disembodied mouths paddling the air as they exercised themselves in speech. A sort of shoal of oral glowsticks. One might even suspect that the salve's chemical composition were actually hallucinogens. Only for the fact that all reported this hanging mouth phenomenon, rather than fall prey to their own personal imaginings.

A further sensory disjunction wrought by the bar's arrangements, concerned the co-ordination of eye and ear. Like any bar, it had music accompanying the buzz of live chatter. Plainsong, Buddhist chanting, all manner of liturgical airs ancient and modern gently palpated those more prattling devotions beneath the vaulted ceiling. Yet the giant wall-mounted video screens, with their sound turned off, showed frenetic musical performances from thrash and death metal bands. At no point could one match the tempo of the two sets of musicians. Evoked tonsures grated against flying long-hairs . While their flying V-guitars brandished with desperate, uncoiled violence, chimed against imagined genuflected benedictions soothingly conveyed by the august tones. Of course for all the severance between the two, patrons couldn't but stare open mouthed (as it were) at the giant screens even while they conducted their small talk.

Thereon into the restaurant itself, for the ultimate part of the experience. Having chosen your food when placing your initial drinks order at the bar, one was summoned by the groping hand of a blind waiter. For the interior beyond was pitched in total darkness. Impossible to see your own hand in front of you, which is why the entire waiting staff were blind in order to assist guiding you through your own loss of sight. The intention was to have the other senses sharpened by way of compensation. Really to experience the taste, texture and aromas of the food perhaps for the first time in an absolute age. There was no cutlery, one ate with one's hands. Rooting around for its location somewhere on a plate in front of you. Your fingers chose what item you would start levering into your mouth. Hot soup however was off the menu. Who could object if you picked up your plate and licked it clean to ensure you had indeed concluded the repast? There is no etiquette in darkness, other than you must surrender your mobile so as not to cheat by utilising its light.

Such were the enervated appetites of the chic and swanky, Café Sensorium was booked solid for two whole years in advance. It superceded the previous trendy hot spot of Café App. And yet the drinks came from the same made to measure optics. The food was nothing particularly amazing. The conversations of the rarified were the same as they always were, only laced with bromidic observations about their immediate environment and how it worked. Those unable to prick their own senses, now required an establishment to execute it for them. But it couldn't tell them whether they'd actually had a good time.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

"Pop Fiction" - Stories Inspired By Songs

This is the wonderful cover for a new fiction anthology "Pop Fiction" which will be published just before Christmas. It's based on the original cover art photography for the Clash's album "London Calling". We are very grateful that Pennie Smith's whose wonderful work (which won "Q Magazine's" 'Greatest Rock'n'roll Photograph Of All Time award) the original was, has endorsed our project and allowed us to use her image.

The royalties for the anthology are being donated to the Blue Lamp Foundation, a charity that provides financial assistance to members of the emergency services in britain who are injured in the line of duty. For more information on this worthy cause click here.

18 stories inspired by songs; 9 by personal choices of the author and 9 by the collectively agreed upon choice of David Bowie's "Heroes".

The other selections are "Tainted Love", "Disney's Dream Debased", "White Man In Hammersmith Palais", "Where's Captain Kirk" and just so you don't think it's all post-punk, "A Day in The Life", "Physical", "Diamonds And Rust" and "I Shot The Sheriff".

My offering, of which I offer an opening sample below, was inspired by possibly the most obscure song of those selected, that by 23 Skidoo called "IY". Here's a video of it which ain't that great quality, but hopefully whets your appetite to track down a decent version.

The story was inspired by the experiences of the Beirut hostages John McCarthy and Brian Keenan, but one which I take off in a whole new direction I hope. Can i recommend anyone who hasn't read Brain Keenan's book on his time as a hostage "An Evil Cradling" to do so, as it's a fantastic read and a real insight into a consciousness forced to rely on itself while handcuffed and blindfolded.

Okay, here's the opening sample to my contribution to the anthology, from a story called "Hotel C.N.S."

Ow! Unyielding. World already in total darkness, now shrunk to two foot at the end of a chain. Ha, the length of a cubit more like. Tight against ... like ... a radiator. It’s do damn hot here, who’d ever need a radiator for godssakes! Ow! Cuffs cutting into me. My flesh interposed between metal on metal. The weak link. Have to stay perched at the correct angle. An involuntary movement and immediate barbaric retribution! No, I came here to teach these people to repair themselves. And this is how they treat me? Tethered like an animal. At least the painted metal’s cooling I suppose. Let’s see if I’ve any movement at all here. Yes, if I just slide along this pipe, got my very own exercise yard. Have to keep remembering to give myself permission to move. Private Hell reporting for duty in someone else’s war Sir!

Clearly I have been afforded a window. The region of sight. Mocking me. Least it means I’m no longer in a cellar. Still in the pockmarked ruins of the city even? If I can just ... Sun’s definition, without luminescence, so only heat and fatigue to guide me. Got it. Full on now. Bob my face minutely across the arc of its gaze ... How clean the air feels ... Up in the mountains, or down in the desert? Who can tell? Cannot see, yet I am not blind. Have to keep telling myself that. Blindfold merely gnomon on the sundial of my skin. Time marked by coruscation, serves as my flare of distress. And listen out for sounds to narrate my story for me. All one need’s contained in the distant artillery. Meeting as intended, or just recoiling? Then nothing but evaporated silence. Are my gaolers even in with me? Tied to my anchor in here, beneath the unfailing scrutiny of such a powerful daytime flashlight out there, they have no need of perpetual watchfulness.

Jesus, this damned heat! It’s like a wall of steam. Can’t even divine the sun directly on me anymore. Jiggle my head this way and that... Just so till it breaks the surface tension and the droplet leaps to freedom ... or oblivion. And still the water trapped
in the radiator watches on in impassive silence. Deus otiose. While my body performs its whirling dervish dance within the confines of a few inches. Scuse me, some mistake here, my bandana’s slipped down over my eyes! It’s not performing its function. Nowhere for the refugee beads of perspiration to go. I don’t actually believe I have any captors. Can’t see them, can’t hear them and despite living in close proximity inside a Turkish bath, I can’t even smell them. They simply don’t exist. But I know how to make them jump! Just remove my blindfold. Or look as though I might. Mop my brow and get pistol whipped to death for my pains. Technological update of a stoning. I was wrong about these people and their primitive methods. They’ve had coaching, from our side. End it all here and now. It would be quicker than drowning. And all for a bead of sweat, truly about a pound of my dissolved flesh.