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Autumn Ghosts

Joe stood at the corner of the train station, chatting to a stranger over a cigarette when Keeley arrived. She smiled at the ease with which he carried himself in making the most of his time. When he spoke about his previous marriage, he told her how it used to irritate his wife and the corners of his mouth flickered downward each time.

She worried he hadn’t forgiven himself for leaving but as time went on; she saw him let go of the deepest connections to his past. Christmas was easy, but he had a pensive expression when he watched her children open their presents, thinking of his own, even though they were adults.

They had spent two weeks together, and then less than a week apart before they saw one another. Keeley insisted on her independence. She wasn’t, as she reminded him, his wife. Yet he enjoyed the time away from her. It was, she knew, part of the change he was making for what was a surprise to him.

The failure of his marriage, and his part in it.

Keeley had no concerns about it. He spoke about his faults without seeking pity, and his writing was a scalpel to the tumours of his past. New flesh had grown over the old, and he told her she was the first person to touch this new version of himself. Keeley wondered if it was too much work, but then he would come through the door, taking responsibility without taking it. He spent his youth in a marriage dictated on his wife’s terms over his, when he didn’t know what he wanted.

She wondered what he had been like, young and earnest as he took his vows before experience provided him with a painful education in their application.

He said he failed at his marriage, and he meant it.

Joe looked up from the conversation and grinned at her. His teeth were white against the salmon pink of his lips and his blue eyes twinkled with delight as he excused himself to come over to her.

He slowed down as he came towards her. She heard his sharp intake of breath, smelled the faint tang of tobacco and underneath the sandalwood and cinnamon musk of his skin.

Joe knew each moment of their relationship was a test or a celebration. He had, by all accounts, been a dutiful father and had retained a dopiness which she found endearing. Kindness came to him with a practiced ease and Keeley knew he wore the burden of performance with her, but it was a weight he carried with grace.

Keeley’s heart thumped against her chest. She leaned towards him and they kissed, a light brush which was a promise against the hungry, hot play of their mouths later. The anticipation made her shudder and he took a deep breath before he murmured his appreciation.

The risk in him diminished, but his hands were rough with her in the best way and he knew how to use his strength for her benefit. His liberation and her comfort made them explosive and intuitive lovers, and the heat of it blew away autumn’s ghosts.

She loved him again.

In their deaths, they smiled at them, offered their blessing as they flew into ashes, twinkling like stars.


My book Until She Sings is out now.



My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.


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The End Of The Affair (Quote)

I loved this film, beautifully filmed and devastating. This scene struck me in particular.
Love doesn’t end, just because we don’t see each other.
Maurice Bendrix:
Doesn’t it?
People go on loving God, don’t they? All their lives. Without seeing him.
Maurice Bendrix:
That’s not my kind of love.
Maybe there is no other kind.
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Two Pages (04/10/16)


  • It was a good two pages this morning. I’m always wary of these scenes, they’re important and I try to balance the need for pace and information with the tenets of solid writing. The one applied to this morning was that if you have two characters talking, they should not tell one another things that they both know. Revelations matter in the context of the book, and I have this nagging suspicion that the scene is too early in the book, but it needed to come out and so it did.
  • I chose the quote above, as much because I agree with it’s sentiments and Sarah Waters has become part of my lexicon of ‘go to’ writers, in that I will read anything of their work. I include:
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Stephen King
  • Joe Hill
  • Paul Tremblay
  • Alice Hoffman
  • Warren Ellis
  • Chuck Palahniuk
  • Don Winslow
  • Stephen Hunter
  • George R R Martin
  • Jason Arnopp
  • Justin Cronin
  • Neil Gaiman
  • John Connolly
  •  Benjamin Percy
  •  Gillian Flynn.
  • John Niven
  • John Irving
  • Barbara Kingsolver
  • In terms of writers who’ve no longer offered up work on account of, y’know, death I have started to explore Charles Dickens, Vladimir Nabokov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Jane Austen.  There’s so much to learn and I am finding new authors all the time. Yesterday, I found out that I can take up 15 books out at a time from the library and it was such a relief because I could do that twice over and still find things to read.


  • Non-fiction, the stuff that informs the books and hopefully shows that I am speaking from a place of relative confidence in the details, that’s more a matter of finding the material that gives me the best information. The quality of the writing matters there, because I don’t enjoy struggling through stilted, if earnest writing to find information. Google is a modern miracle but I retain information from books in a more organic way.


  • I am not a pretentious person. I can be quite stoic, I enjoy being a man, which is an odd thing to say these days but I do. I like how my mind works, I enjoy seeing my work progress, even the wrestling with doubt that afflicts me about my talent is still enjoyable because it means that I am progressing, I am fighting myself for an ideal that I may not achieve. There are amazing books on shelves that no one reads, no one can predict what sells and what doesn’t. I’ve said it before, but I make my success about the process for now rather than the outcome.  Making myself write every day is a pleasurable practice, as much meditation as work. It’s like gardening on a sunny day, sometimes all you get is scratched and dirty, but when it’s done and you take a step back, it feels wonderful to have done it.
  • Writing has changed me, and the writing has changed as a result. I used any number of identities when I was avoiding writing, political activist was one of them and when they all hit barriers, I gave up. Writing is, and I remember the comedienne Bethany Black, the thing that I have found that I don’t want to fail at anymore. I write for, and about women because that was what came out on the page and I like to leave a certain amount of the reasoning and process in my subconscious. If I started to truly analyse myself, there are limits that we apply in the journey. What comes up is what gets put out there, and so there are women of all types in my books, and there’s no manifesto to that other than to tell a good story as well as I can. To get good at it without necessarily defining what good is other than the reaction of the reader.

Thank you for reading. Please leave comments and questions below. You won’t because no one reads this but I do it regardless. We all need to create and sit in what Hakim Bey called ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’, liminal spaces where we can think, speak and play without fear of judgement or scorn. This is mine. Tell me yours.

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I Will Continue

Clouds break,

Smudged light emerging from

Between them

I stand and lift my face upwards

Apart from everything

But open to it regardless

I built a suit of armour

From my words

But there are still

Fresh scars underneath

Yet within me

Lies a beast that knows

Pain only in the abstract

No one tells you

The world is only interested

In what you can offer

But you learn it

To the bone

The storm will pass

The sun will come out

I will continue

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Deep, Full, Brave

My fingers brushing
Oils against
The tenderest canvas
A playful patience
Flirting with the
Delicious risk
Pouting orifice
Bloom beneath
Each careful application
As sunlight caresses
Supine in
Generous surrender
An unconscious resistance
A tingling shower
Of delightful
A play as focused
As surgery
These rebellions
Without a banner
To rally beneath
Other than
Powerful as explosions
And despite the
Has you pushing
My firm, calm touch
A safe comfort
To test how
You can be
And what capricious
As we take flight
From the tangled neuroses
Telluric in taboo’s soil

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Hard Times by Charles Dickens



Unusually for Dickens, Hard Times is set, not in London, but in the imaginary mid-Victorian Northern industrial town of Coketown with its blackened factories, downtrodden workers and polluted environment. This is the soulless domain of the strict utilitarian Thomas Gradgrind and the heartless factory owner Josiah Bounderby.

However human joy is not excluded thanks to ‘Mr Sleary’s Horse-Riding’ circus, a gin-soaked and hilarious troupe of open-hearted and affectionate people who act as an antidote to all the drudgery and misery endured by the ordinary citizens of Coketown.

Macaulay attacked Hard Times for its ‘sullen socialism’, but 20th-century critics such as George Bernard Shaw and F.R. Leavis have praised this book in the highest terms, while readers the world over have found inspiration and enjoyment from what is both Dickens’ shortest completed novel and also one of his important statements on Victorian society

I had a cultural awareness of his work and had seen adaptations of it on television and at the cinema, but this was my first experience of reading Dickens. His shadow reaches across the centuries, he’s buried at Westminster Abbey and he’s a cultural icon.

After reading his work, I get it now.

The language and craft are impeccable, entirely of their time but still in possession of a clarity and insight that makes the subjects timeless. There is woven within the delightfully realised descriptions and interactions, a great deal of genuine anger and insight. He never stinted at going after the big issues – class, education and character. His plotting is superb, the story develops and reveals true character, whilst holding to a wonderfully terse and delightful story that shows the virtue of being true to oneself.

In the political and social novel, the tone can sometimes veer towards preaching but Dickens made informed and cogent insights without forgetting to be entertaining. Even his choice of character names are reflective of their respective characters and have a deliciously rich and ridiculous power to them. One of the teachers has the surname of M’Choakumchild and the rigorous, logical father has the surname of Gradgrind. On every level, Dickens puts together a story, an argument as delicious and delicate as a string of pearls.

Language has changed, culture has changed and yet Dickens shows us that human nature and desire has not. He makes an argument not for a particular political party or idea, but compassion and honesty in our dealings with one another. He shows the damage that a focus solely on education as repetition without the development of character and heart can cause, personified in the odious yet logical progression of Blitzer and in the Gradgrind children themselves, but how they overcome this serves the story.

Hard Times was wonderful and I would recommend it without reservation.

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A moment

The scent of you

Lingers long after you walk by

A moment’s faith in the

Possibility of beauty

Our eyes meet, a smile

Small enough to fit in

The breast pocket

Folded like a handkerchief

Dressed for a better place than this

Like you’re waiting for the world

To catch up to the speed of your dreams

My ambitions have taken the scenic route

But their certainty carries in my

Posture and although nothing is said

Everything is communicated

We promise one another

A kindly deliverance

My rough hands contrasting with

The kindly intelligence in my eyes

And oh that flush rising in your skin

So much sweeter for being

Unresolved, a ghost of something

That was never borne into being

And never died

Wishing one another well

From the privacy of our own


We walk on

We walk on


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Captain, My Captain

In Central Park,  he sat on the bench. A man who appears to have that mature easy masculinity that makes him turn heads whenever he ventures out.  Wide shoulders and a broad chest,  seam popping biceps and sweeping thighs.  He looks like the dreams of a young Schwarzenegger . There’s a trace of crows feet around his eyes and his white blonde hair is greying at the temples.  To passersby he looks odd to be feeding the pigeons but he smiles when I walk up and sit on the bench next to him.

He lied about his age, fourteen years old and doing Basic. A harder stronger life than a family of eight packed into a pair of rooms. A non com bawling in your face is easier than a mother’s futile bitter tears.  Realising that your father loved you because he pulled his punches.

His selection for the first iteration of the Ally Programme was a promise of an additional sixteen dollars a month.  New clothes for the siblings.
What emerged was someone else entirely.  Additional nerve receptors,  carbons in his bones and grafted muscle tissue.  Cormac McCarthy wrote in Blood Meridian.

War is the ultimate trade and man it’s ultimate practitioner

You look at him and get it. It’s the ideal of the soldier. A grease gun and a cause is all he ever asked for. He got a body and a brain that operated on all cylinders, which was just as good.
He bore the weight of hope well. So well that when the US sought to press it’s advantage,  it broke him by degrees. 
It takes a drink to get him talking.  A pill for the dreams to stop.

Ninety years old now and dragging the memories behind him like a length of chain. He was a warrior who became a soldier.  Briefed by men with shrivelled consciences, persuaded of actions that had him commit himself to psychiatric care, treated with a deference that pained him. He retreated into memory and wholly became the symbol until the Pantheon took on board sponsors and his two fisted heroism was incompatible with the mission statements and the deference to news cycles.

Now he appears at conventions and as a talking head on news. He dates women and avoids the knowing gaze of their great grandmothers.  He swears he’s at peace.

‘You must be desperate, son’

My shrug betrays me and he smiles.  It’s an  expression you’d hope to see before battle and yet my feelings remain entirely conflicted.  He shakes the breadcrumbs off his fingers and begins to listen.

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Some quiet kingdom

Some quiet kingdom

Light enough to read by

Warm sun on my skin

The sense of a time coming

A time past

And all of that rich with learning

No longer feeling the tug

Of the wound

Beneath my palm the rough hieroglyphic

Of the bark and there is a path

That winds as it moves forward

Sometimes into shadow

And then up into the clean

Singing air and the sunshine

Is making a key turn in my chest

Not clockwork but determined

And in the end

A way will not be found

But recalled

With the ringing bell of determined

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Alchemy of Time

Solitude is a balm

Better than loneliness

My own company

Has developed into a fine

State of affairs

Ushered into being

By the bold cloak

Of purpose

If I am to be apart

Then it is not such

A bad thing

To watch change in


As I experience it

The grand alchemy of

A heart, a mind

A soul

Burnished and toughened

By experience

And contemplation

But oh how a warm hand

A beautiful smile

Still sets me aflame

To forever chase

A capture of that which

Is intangible

Yet a beauty without argument