I find myself in a conundrum. It is not a new one, and if I have mumbled about it on here before, and you have read it more recently than I have, my apologies. I have written a few short stories recently. I know I don’t really do short stories but then I don’t write poetry, certainly not to see the light of day and yet there are a couple of (execrable joke) examples on here, and I have three poems published. So maybe short stories are a thing I do.

Whether I do or not I was wondering whether to send them off to people. I entered one in a couple of competitions but don’t think I made the waste bin never mind the long lists. I have sent it off for consideration for publication along with another sort of SF short which suddenly materialised out of nowhere. No news (positive news that is – one rejection on the non-SF piece).

My conundrum is: do I put some of this stuff on here, which is my inclination, or do I reserve some of it for publication elsewhere? The thing is, that blogs are now usually regarded as prior publication by competitions, and most magazines. A few explicitly say they will take pre-blogged material (and if you are AL Kennedy or someone they will make a whole book out of your blogs- very good too by the way, no complaints regarding her pre-blogged material) but most only want unpublished (including blogged) material.

So do I hold material back never to see the light of day on the off chance someone somewhere will take it? Do I put it on here and be damned (for that seems the likely outcome if I do), or do I wait a certain term and if I can’t flog it/peddle it elsewhere put it on here? The last seems like the worst and most offensive case to be fair. It feels like saying – you lot are only good enough for the dross that won’t sell for cash. Thinking about it, if that were a fair assessment it would be selling myself pretty short too I guess; I’d be putting second class goods in what should probably be my shop window.

So the answer to the conundrum?

Probably stick to some sort of rigid policy of deciding before I write something where the material is going. If it is for the blog, and it turns out to be good enough to be read by anyone (ha! there’s always that caveat with everything of course), it goes on the blog even if I think I could sell it for millions (as if!) and if I write something for hawking around for cash only then that’s where it goes. If it doesn’t make it then maybe it shouldn’t go on the blog either? If it ain’t good enough for a mag/publisher/prize maybe it isn’t fit to see the light of day anywhere?

We’ll see.


First of all congratulations to Simon Tonkin, winner of the Liberty Be The 80th Writer Competition.

His winning poem ‘Calais Plage’ can be found here.

Secondly – Damn! I didn’t win it.

I shall go and chew my carpet in the time honoured fashion and tell all who will listen how marvellous it is that Simon has won, and that he deserved it and secretly stick pins in an effigy I am even now crafting of him.

Oh well. Big smiles everybody!

Well done Simon. It is actually very good.

(I hate being magnanimous, especially in defeat.)

The cause is excellent and whether I won or not (didn’t- sulk) the whole project is extremely worthwhile and has more importance and resonance than ever given the ducking and diving our Government is doing over British complicity in CIA torture.

Well done Liberty – a pain in the backside on many occasions but all the more necessary for that.


Having spent a little more time researching, ie idly roaming the internet for, the available outlets for short stories, I have discovered a few more with higher word count limits. This may have turned into something of an obsession but the short stories I enjoyed, and still enjoy reading are generally longer than the 1,500 average that seems to be the norm now. It’s like the difference between scoffing a bag of crisps on the run and having a perfectly cooked omelette in a great café or small restaurant. Neither is the same as the full multi course dinner that is a novel, but the one will give you that sensation of perfect small meal while the other is definitely a snack to tide you over. Not that I dislike flash fiction (or crisps unfortunately),  but it doesn’t give the same satisfaction as a well crafted short story.

So outlets.

Mostly prize competitions which seems odd. The magazine outlets seem to be drying up very quickly.

I am talking about paid publication obviously. There are tons of opportunities on the web to self publish for nothing but I still think you generally get what you pay for and if you pay nothing…

I didn’t used to pay much attention to prizes, especially the smaller ones – pretty much for the same reasons Iain Banks said he didn’t much rate them – I hadn’t won any. Having been shortlisted for one last year however I see the point more now!

So my latest effort at a short story will probably be going forward for one soon. If I can address this in the same way I did the play last year I shall be happy. That is, to forget about it until the results come out. Time to be bitter and twisted then, not before.

NAWG Shortlist Certificate


I did pretty much what I said I would do over the result of the NAWG 10 minute play competition and sulked for a week. Then I forgot about it until the certificate arrived through the post. Now a bitter old cynic might say that a certificate isn’t sales and it isn’t being published, but I suddenly felt myself feeling quite emotional about getting it. So thanks to the organisers and the judges and everyone else involved. My sulks have gone, and although it isn’t a sale or a contract it is very nice to have a bit of recognition in tangible form.


I had been hoping that DREAMING might see the light of day in the winner’s anthology from the 2013 NAWG Writer’s Competition for the 10 minute play category.

However I sort of promised myself it could have a wider audience at least for a time, whatever happened, so although it didn’t win you can see the shortlisted entry under the WRITING tab above. Hover on WRITING and then click on PLAY.

And the Winner is… not me

NAWG 2013 Writing Competition 10 Minute Play

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same
you’ll be able to smile through gritted teeth
when in the winner’s place you see another’s name

Oh well – congratulations Bob Bishop whoever you are. Actually if it is Bob Bishop the author of  ‘A Tickle Amongst the Cornstalks’ he isn’t really a whoever you are. Lots of scripts written and performed. Not sure if that make the smile more relaxed or tighter.

I didn’t make it to the NAWG Gala Dinner so at least I didn’t have to deploy my losing Oscar Night smile in person when I didn’t win the 10 Minute Play Prize.

Still, it was nice to be short listed.

But I am a rubbish loser and will probably sulk for days.

Hey ho!

Accidental Death of a Scientist

This was a short piece I wrote for a BBC competition in 2004 – I think it was for Hustle, but it was a little too political for the show and the Corporation at the time to be honest (regardless of any merit or lack thereof!)


Focuses the mind, death. I knew it was over for me when I heard he’d died. Didn’t quite foresee all the fallout of course, but I knew it was going to be unpleasant.

Of course I’d tried to limit the damage before that. I’d said to William: ‘Will he weather the storm?’ He was the man’s boss after all. Well, we all know the answer to that one now.

I thought we should have protected him more. This business is all about face and I didn’t see how we could keep face if we hung him out to dry.

As I said to William: ‘Ecce homo! This is the man! One of the five or six people in Christendom who understands what the bloody Iraqis are doing. Expose him and the public’s confidence will be blown to hell’

Didn’t think he’d die though.


Christendom was a mistake. Terribly unfashionable. Left a bad smell. Not at one with the PM’s values apparently, despite his bloody crypto Catholic views. Acknowledging 2000 years of history is a sin apparently.

Anyway, the poor sod’s dead and I know he wasn’t one of us, but does the public understand the difference? No. One spook’s the same as another to them.  The fact that he was only a bloody technician means nothing to them.


I should have been firmer. I knew we had no real evidence. Nothing that would stand up in a court of law, but then, what intelligence would?  It’s not that sort of game is it? Hand on heart how often is what we say unequivocal? Wouldn’t call it the bloody Assessments Staff if it were would we? We’d call it Truth Staff, or something equally Orwellian. This was worse though, all froth and no substance.

Never thought I’d have to justify this sort of stuff to anyone.  That was always part of the deal. We’ll give you our assessment, warts and all; you don’t expose us to the public gaze. I mean what do they know? What can they know?

We put up a bloody good case, considering. Gave them what they asked for. They didn’t ask the objective questions of course. They never do, but we answered what we were asked, and by good Christ almighty they got the answers they wanted.

Of course, they didn’t ask for all the intelligence on the existence of WMD, but where would that have got them?  Nowhere! As I said, intelligence is an imperfect science; one simply does not get clear answers with open questions.  Asking the question the right way lets the politicos get the answer they need for public consumption. So HMG in its infinite wisdom didn’t ask the DG ‘What have you got on the existence of WMD?’ No. No open questions. This isn’t bloody therapy for  Christ’s sake. That would have led to confusion. No. They asked ‘Give me everything you’ve got that confirms they’ve got WMD.’ Different bloody question. Different bloody answer.


Poor old 6 and the West Country running round like bloody loons of course. No way they’ve got a full brief for the politicos on that one. Tons of stuff the other way, but they weren’t asked for that. Some little oik turns up with a note from his mother saying: ‘however other evidence suggests…’ and he’s off to freight and mails or wherever it is that doubles for Siberia these days. So you dig where you’re told and not one inch left or right.


So when the old judge asks ‘Was the report manipulated by No10?’ we all stand up and say ‘Absolutely not sir’ with our woggles standing stiff and true without a word of a lie.


I lied my bloody arse off for the Crown over this one. Had to really, question of loyalty; pencilled in for a knighthood already. More than pencilled in actually, indelible ink, so to speak. Owed it to them to keep my face straight and nod and bleat when asked. I’ll get the K of course. Least they could bloody do under the circumstances; might get something a bit better than that actually. And of course, having proved how sound I am, there’s every chance of a few directorships, but I say!


Poor bugger’s dead after all and someone should say sorry. The politicians have all sloped shoulders of course. Bloody typical, I’d expect nothing less of any of ‘em, left or right.

But I looked at the judge and wondered what we were doing. Something stuck in my throat just a little bit at that point.

I mean, I know we pull the wool over the public’s eyes, good God one has to in order to have any chance of running the place, but did we have to sacrifice a poor old sod like that?

I did. I turned the No10 intelligence requirement into a set of tasks and my people came back like good little goats and bleated back the 10 per cent that backed the implied answer. And I paraded it up to the JIC.

There was no need to massage the answer, for God’s sake; do the press have any idea what goes on? You don’t need special advisors and press manipulators and policy wonks burning the midnight oil when the report hits the desk.

The massage was in the question. Just like it always is.

Thank God they got rid of the people bright enough to spot that one eh? And the poor old sod was left out to dry. To die.

I’ve decided to take early retirement.

Oh it was inevitable really. The day he was reported dead I knew. Everyone associated would be moved sideways eventually. Oh, one may escape it for a while but I was right in there, I provided HMG with its alibi.

I’ll be okay, they have to look after me after all, or arrange for the traditional accident in a Norfolk ditch.

Here’s to the K and no sleepless nights!

National Association of Writers Groups Open Festival of Writing

Shortlisted for the Ten Minute Play Category, which is the only one I entered, so nice hit rate!
The awards are to be at the 2013 Warwick Writing Festival 30 August – 1 September. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like I will be able to be there.
I’m really pleased to have been shortlisted. Obviously I hope I win but to have got this far feels really good. The play was worked up from a really short idea I had some years ago and whilst it is significantly different now it has encouraged me to read back through all those notebooks and half noted ideas. There’s gold in them thar scribbles!