Over the past sixteen years, I have been instrumental in publishing 139 short stories by 113 writers, not counting myself, from Bosnia, Canada, China, England, India, Ireland, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, USA and Wales.
The last few were online and the rest were in 11 anthologies. I also co-edited two anthologies of poetry. Sales have been very poor but the writers I picked have gone on to win all the major prizes for short stories and some of them are now big names.
I am not a novelist. I’ve wasted good ideas for short stories by trying to think of them as novels. However, if I revisit them, and I have about four I think I started on, maybe I can rewrite them as long short stories. I’m very down and depressed. Hardly an hour goes by that I don’t spend partially in contemplation of throwing my hat at it all. I wish this coronavirus would go away, it’s so worrying and depressing. So much anxiety, fear… We’re shielding each other here. A ticklish throat, random cough at night: is this it? Are we goners?
Then sometimes interludes of welcome respite in the garden. I wish goldfinches would slow down so I could have time to get my binoculars and have a good look at them. They flit to the bird bath and are gone in an instant. I’m going to go for a long walk today, my 3 mile walk. I’ve been taking the 1 mile route most days or staying in all day. Meanwhile here’s Donny…
Weeds are good. I like them. We have to stick together. The camera can’t quite capture the delicate primrose colour exactly.
Primroses growing wild in the back garden
In other news, our lemon tree has been freed from its greenhouse prison to romp about in the sunny outdoors. It is bedecked with flowers like jasmine only more grown-up and sensual. The one lemon is still a work-in-progress, hidden by two sentry leaves and lots of tiny lemons have got started and are hoping to hang around a bit longer.
Freed lemon tree gambolling and frolicking in the open air
As this is a blog, I feel I ought to report what’s happening with me, at least once in a while. I’m trying to make progress with a novel I started on more than a year ago. As part of this, I’m taking another workshop course at City Lit. It’s the highlight of my week and I’m getting great feedback, encouragement, and discovering that there is so much more I need to do. I know it’s often said that you shouldn’t workshop something till the entire first draft is finished but I am worried about the foundations I’m laying with the first few chapters and I don’t want to “go off half-cocked.” A friend from my local informal workshop said about my work-in-progress, “I think this one has legs.” That’s why I chose to press ahead and try to complete it and why I’m doing all I can to do so. It’s fascinating to see how others are getting on with their writing and I learn something new every day, in the process of giving and receiving feedback. The course is called “Advanced fiction writing workshop” and our tutor this time is novelist Mary Flanagan, whose comments and notes are both charming and insightful.
I’m very grateful to Dr El-Husseiny and all the team at Charing Cross Urology department for giving me back the ten years younger that I feel. To the jolly Caribbean night nurse, you are gold, cheering-up the ward of men with tubes where no tube should be.
And I hope the worried Londoner who talked to me by name, is okay. He was so worried and I said I was the same before but I could have said more as I left. Others too. It’s a world apart. We were there for prostate reduction operations. There was a man older than the rest who was fairly quiet and another young guy who was shouting and moaning but he had other complications, probably a different operation, I think.
That was some months ago now. It’s been fascinating, becoming “ten years younger.” Once I’d recovered from the operation and started feeling like this, I thought it’s like having part of a life to live over. What I didn’t do for the past ten years and should have, I now must, or will it just be the same again?
So I’m doing some work on a writing project, instead of faffing around, noodling, doodling. But it’s tricky, this “being serious” malarkey. There’s a danger that my, though I say so, light & breezy text is at peril of becoming dull by having to make sense. But I hope if I rebuild on better foundations, which I am doing now, that normal service will be resumed, and light breezes shall blow again. I don’t know if this is of interest to anyone other than me but no matter!
I've made some corrections, so this is a bit more accurate than the last version I posted but it double-counts the parts of a trilogy. I also read about 300 short stories not in books! Check out #MyYearInBooks@goodreads to see the 14 books I read in 2019! https://t.co/zPRgR1bFGU
After my book “The London Silence” was published, I grew to hate the text. About 120 were sold but I decided it had to die. I wanted to change the ending to resolve the dramatic irony more satisfactorily. I told PG to remove it from sale. So it’s out-of-print even p.o.d.
The London Silence, cover flat
I dumped my stash of copies in a recycling bin, so it became pulp fiction. However, secondhand copies could still be bought on Amazon. Just recently, I thought, “I’ll buy all of those and bin them too” but it’s not possible as some are priced at outrageous levels. However, a strange thing happened next.
For the first time in nearly 15 years, I started re-reading the text and it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Maybe my standards have slipped but I don’t think it’s that. It’s because here were things that without this text were completely lost to my mind. It’s a museum of me.
I now have a collection of used books, some of which I signed and numbered in 2004. They found their way to charity shops and thence to World of Books and that’s fine. One of them is actually pristine, from a bookshop I imagine, as a few did go to real bookshops in the US & UK.
I’m still not happy with the ending, general restrained flow or anyway a lack of plenitude, underwriting, typo “alter” for “altar”. But then I’ve noticed numerous typos in famous bestselling books since then and love it when I spot them so, again, – relief.
I used to complain to my friend at the publisher (Pretend Genius) that the book should never have been published, but now I think I should say an overdue thank you to them and that, after all, it wasn’t so bad. I’m even thinking about a new edition, or rehabilitating parts of it, only I’d like to finish other things I’ve started since then first.