Sunday, December 28, 2008

2009 Prompts 28-December-2008

Pretty well every day now, at noon, I am sure there is a breeze.

At night, on the bare boards of the deserted girls' bedroom.

Darling, this letter is secret. That means secret, equals US Top Secret.

Though brilliantly sunny, Saturday morning was overcoat weather.

The father, the son, light a candle, kneel, and pray to ghosts.

If you really want to hear about it.

Perhaps the Cape Town Express passes in the next valley, a tree sways, a butterfly, a bird rises, and the air moves.

It is thirty-six years to the day since our wedding.

One night some twenty years ago.

Much later, the air in my hut shifts.

I hear you whispering, "This is the wind, the wind down a long valley."

The facts at hand presumably speak for themselves

Finally, the last one to know, I found out about my wife's affair.

At times, frankly, I find it slim pickings

There are many unsuitable jobs for a particularly private person; Agony Aunt, for example,

Rexler, the man who wrote all those books on theatre

What do you do about death? In this case the death of an old father?

I almost began, "My Dear Child"

This is him, making their packed lunches, two packed lunches; what could be simpler?

The birds chirped away, "Phweet, Phweet."

This is all bollocks, lies. No. Well, if it's the truth it's that GOVT ISSUE economical kind, or it's "spin".

Dizzy with perplexities, seduced by a restless spirit.

I was lying on the sofa, under a duvet with the kids, one each side.

There were, in all, six white people who lived at Sego Desert Lake

This is a sad tale about a stripeless zebra, a hyena who never laughed and a lion in a swiss zoo who wanted to learn to yodel and swim with dolphins.

Yes I knew the guy. We were kids together in Chicago.

He was a hard kid, a thin, tough body, and fire in the belly, quick to react

Saturday, December 27, 2008

2009 Prompts. 27-Dec-2008

Do NOT Blink!


Late August, given heavy rain and sun

I am growing old but I remember, Jenny kissed me.

By the punnet

Once there was a road here and carts passed

and that has made all the difference

I hear horns, and calling, out in the frost

We are in the business of chocolate

No time to see, in broad daylight

The echo and the blood-lust of a train

Once I was a girl, then drip, a boy became

Ah, distinctly, I remember, it was a hot August night

Some new trick, some trap

And in their turn were they fucked up, remember that


When ghosts walked the earth

An audio tape will accompany this book

And every April they would paint it pink

And I have known the eyes already, every one

and its flesh was sweet

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day Prompts

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet

In love with the chaplain

Dew on a spider's web

Desire and excitement are not the great fires

There was a tree down

I wouldn't thank you for a valentine

It's tough being a boy; all those girl mechanics whistling


I will keep on translating. What else is there?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Prompts, 22nd

Down by one of the fish-houses

We took turns at laying an ear on the rail

I am safe but the land is darkening

Behind everything, in little villages, in garages

Let us set off for somewhere

I have crossed the border

No dream kitchen, just the fire

The birds are massing; the sky is black

Early morning, Fairhaven, Massachusetts

A fox in the chickens

I bought some fresh potatoes

I love to go out when the weather is undecided

Nothing but blackberries

Every year you say it isn't worth the trouble

Gleaming machines

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Almost Xmas Prompts

This is dangerous; it should not be left near children


Hold it up to the light

Like a crow fallen down a chimney

In a boat without oars

A bud

Rise bird, hop branch to branch and reach the sky


it is a cold, fatty, evening

The barrows are here, the nets, but the men are gone

I have seen it, over and over and over and over

I look from the train. Two boys play football in a muddy field

What if this road never ended?

I would like to be milk

He dropped in darkness from the moving, clanking train

Problems with Fish

I have a low fire

Wild Geese flying low, smoke curling

Friday, December 19, 2008

Prompts, Friday

What they are not about is pain

Zena has taken the dogs away

One thousand five hundred houses


There's a difference between being a survivor and surviving

Bloody Murder

Some New Ambush

The White Road

The Scent of Cinnamon

Various Communications from Down Under

Too ugly to be a Possum

and you will know that you have lost her

Kenna's Dilemma

Is it worth anything on Ebay?

I am not yet born, hear me!

He's broken every law there is

When fishes flew and forests walked

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday Prompts 21:25

Ivory, Peacocks

Nodding by the fire

I leant on a gate

Today we have the naming of parts

Don't ask ME!

Oh, I have slipped the pull of earth

For a journey, a journey, such a long journey

Small lawns, small people, and echoing TVs

Only the monstrous anger

They've closed the new road, try the valley


No prayers, no bells

Bloody men are like bloody scooters

I got on a half-empty train


We walked all day through a tall, swaying heat

His black heart

He did not wear his scarlet coat

I have been so great a lover

The sky is good for flying, Mrs Jones

Among long-discarded vestments

I remember, I remember



Done Mine

Finished at 20:35 (36 minutes)

a few typos.

Posted corrected version at 20:43 (605 words)

Thursday Evening Blast - 1

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees

What is this life if full of care
We have no time to stand and stare?

Now I was young and easy

The ploughman, slowly home

The sea is calm tonight

Stop all the clocks, cut of the telephone

Who can remember Arram?

and miles to go before I sleep

Everyone suddenly burst out singing

When you are old and grey and watching reality TV


Once I stole a bloke's Honda

There is some corner, let me sit there quiet

Firewood, iron, and cheap tin trays


Now I am an old man, disgusting in Lycra

And seeing how I am not quite appreciated

Butting through the channel

The Ballistics Blog


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Great Stuff Happening in BC

We've had a few ex-members return, and a fresh influx of keen newbies.

The grid has been revamped and there's a new guide to critiquing in January.

And there are GREAT special offers for 3-month, 6-month and Annual memberships

03 Months Save £18

06 Months Save 25%

12 Months save a whopping 50%

These figures apply to BC-PRO

BC Standard

03 Months Save £12

06 Months Save 25%

12 Months save 50%

We will also have a members-only, virtually-free, area, a "Boot Camp Annexe" for those who want to talk craft and writing intelligently but don't want or need the writing-critting regime.

Drop in at

Say hello, ask whatever questions you like. Browse and see a list of links to hundreds of Boot Camper stories available on the web.

Alternatively email

alex.keegan (at) btinternet (dot) com



Wednesday Prompts

My father, booting home. It rains.

You're twelve, thirteen, the door is locked.

Outside, there is nothing that I need

There you go again, diving in

A sand-box

Mummy, mummy, there's an armoured tank in the front room!

You can blame many things on ABBA

Somewhere on the streets of Paris

I will cut my hair too short and speak too loud

Frankie's gotta blade

So what IS this thing with Flamingos, the one-leg thing?

In an easy, uncomplicated way


My father shot the Christmas roast, and then turned to us

Here is a bird that will never be

I decide and feel everything begin to simmer

I may be the Mayor of Bombay

Swimming up the Amazon, patient.

I am a child. They bury me.

They were at my table, talking. They are dead.

Monday, December 15, 2008


It begins as a creaking, a sort of ache


The skyline bristles, the sky behind is red


The gate will not rest

Grave men, who when near death, see with a sharper light

The magic of the persistent question

I am not sure if I'm still here

The without eye, the tongue within

There are walls that stand and walls that will crumble

Why the giraffe? Why the elephant?

He pulls at the cloth and cups spill

Sucking the decayed breasts of death

There are leaves on the water, but the water is pink

He spreads his knees, he laughs

OK, let's go!

The soot that falls from dead cold chimneys

The ship of fools is in dock

Falling and Flying are the same: only the landing is different

My father in my mirror

Black book, blank book, blank look

A Hanging

Whose woods are these?


A confederacy of the delusional


I me a traveler, a simple soul, and quiet


That Easter I was late leaving, things to tidy up


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Further Clarification

I hear tonight that someone, "Rafiki" has noted that TLC was "a temporarily free forum" and that I was only at WD to recruit members.

Does this dummy not think that had I wanted to be sneaky I would not have published that fact publicly?

Yes a non-charging TLC was temporary, but the onset of Writers Dock charging was SONNY's idea. Writers Dock today AFTER I had left, announced they would be charging for membership of TLC. WD brought in charges for new members three months ago and wanted me to charge for TLC at the rate of thirty pounds a month. That was delayed for one reason only; because I told Sonny to wait until TLC members began to score hits and win prizes.

So to clarify. The charging was at the behest of the owner of Writers Dock and it was me who delayed the imposition of the charge.

The ten weeks work, the articles, the stories, the critiques (I have critiqued every single story and flash posted) was completely free.

TLC members have already posted about how much they learned and how disappointed they are.

I repeat I was NOT banned. I left because the situation was impossible.

Alex Keegan

Writers Dock

This morning I decided to leave Writers Dock.

Shortly I will post to explain why.

But I think it's important to clarify something.

Over the years Boot Camp has waxed and waned. It gets newcomers, people develop and leave to:

Have a baby
Start an MA or MFA
Write a novel


BC has always need around 24 members so that at any time 12-18 are active. We work intensely, brilliantly, successfully.

This last eighteen months I took my eye off the ball while renovating the chapel in Wales and the membership slipped. The place was still working (it still is today) but it felt lifeless.

I was a dormant member at Writers Dock, dormant, because frankly it was a very amateurish place run by amateurs, for amateurs. But there were a few souls there who wanted Writers Dock to be more and they had a new section for critiquing critiques, and that's MY kind of country.

So, as Cheesepuff, a membership I'd had since 2005, I began to post.

As is standard in these cases, certain baboons on certain rocks began to bare their teeth, but Sonny, the owner of the site confided in me that the site was struggling and atrophying and needed something like Boot Camp.

I set up an open forum "Tough Love Central" then a closed group "Tough Love Writing Group 1" and a third forum "Story Week 1", another "Story Follow-up" and a fifth for Flashes.

In just ten weeks we trebled the size of the membership

Below are the statistics. Appreciate this is from scratch in a partly-hostile environment.


10 (08) Initial membership/True Membership
29 (24) Current Membership/True Membership

00,460 Threads (46 per week)
05,553 Posts (555 per week)
44,491 Views (4,490 per week)
01,447 New Writing Prompts (145 per week)

00,087 New Flashes (9 per week)
00,085 New Stories (9 per week)
00,004 New Stories not yet posted
00,005 Other Stories

00,181 Total Stories (18 per week)
00,975 Total Critiques (incl professional stories) (98 per week)
00,616 STORY Critiques (61 per week)
00,328 Flash Responses/Crits (33 per week)
00,007 Story Full critiques per-story average (7.25)
00,004 Crit Responses per Flash average (3.77)

00,018 Craft Threads
00,004 Professional Stories Discussed
00,003 Craft Articles (NEW)
00,003 Craft Articles (OLD)
00,002 Writing Exercises

00,129 Submissions
00,024 Rejections
00,100 Stories Circulating
00,014 Hits
00,001 Major Prize Finalist
00,001 Notes
00,005 Publications

However, when an individual was castigated by a Draconian moderator for using a TLC prompt, I pointed out (not remotely flaming) why the castigation was wrong. The baboons rose up, as they always do. However, reading the various posts in WD you'd be forgiven for imagining that I had sent nasty emails or private messages. I did not. Not one. My privileges as a moderator were removed, so I told Sonny I would be leaving as soon as I had removed my stories, my articles and the Boot Camp grid.

I hear tonight that someone, "Rafiki" has noted that TLC was "a temporarily free forum" and that I was only at WD to recruit members.

Yes it was, but the onset of charges was SONNY's idea. WD brought in charges for new members three months ago and wanted me to charge for TLC at the rate of thirty pounds a month. That was delayed for one reason only; because I told Sonny to wait until TLC members began to score hits and win prizes.

So to clarify. The charging was at the behest of the owner of Writers Dock and it was me who delayed the imposition of the charge.

I've left WD (they blocked my ID immediately and have not allowed me to remove my personal files) and I have not solicited any WD member and suggested they join Boot Camp

Alex Keegan



Friday, December 12, 2008

URLs for Radio Interviews

Interview starts 2:08:18 in.

BBC Radio Berkshire

Interview starts about 30 minutes 24 seconds in

Southern Counties Breakfast ran something every day. Friday's is

and the interview starts 42 mins : 29 seconds in

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Radio Interviews & Vanessa Gebbie's Blog

I'm on a few radio stations tomorrow (see below)

an also on Vanessa Gebbie's Blog

BBC Radio Berkshire between 0720 and 0800


BBC Radio Solent at approximately 0815

I'm also on

BBC Southern Counties Radio, some time between 7 & 10

Another Interview

I will be on BBC RADIO BERKSHIRE's Breakfast Show tomorrow, Friday 12th December, the twentieth anniversary of the Clapham Crash.

Time to be confirmed.


Monday, December 08, 2008


There's a long interview of mine being run over five days on BBC Southern Counties Radio

Fred Marden's early-morning show (0700-0900)

I suspect that interview will focus on the Clapham Crash (Dec 12th 1988) and maybe the writing will get a mention on Friday.

A much more detailed interview starts soon on Vanessa Gebbie's Blog, starting Friday 12th and running for a number of days

Thursday, December 04, 2008



A man thinks, of a wall.

He might rush - another man would rush - dash out for bricks, come back, realise he didn't buy cement, rush out again. What bricks? Does it matter? Do they matter? Just bricks, you know, bricks. A wall is a wall is a wall.

And cement. You need cement, I guess. And you end up with some sort of wall.

No, this man, he thinks. Why a wall? What kind of wall? A wall for shade, or in the shade? Straight, curved, straight and curved? Ornate, or a plain-Joe wall, red-bricked, solid, neat white pointing. What kind of foundations? How deep, how wide, single brick or doubled? Spaces? Ties? What does the wall want? What will the wall say?

Will people look, say, "Nice wall!" or will the wall merely protect, watch backs and small people picnic on fine grass before it? Will they breathe out as the flop before the wall; drop onto blankets, sigh, feeling something is solid here, and the view, the view, the wall behind them, a mother's skirt they don't know they hold?

Brick. Red is usual, but there are many browns, yellows, grey. Or stone, should we think stone? Brick and Stone? Stone & Brick? Are we looking ahead, thinking of sticky-footed ivy, tacked trellises, roses, Russian vines? What shall the wall carry? Does the wall need to look good now (but one day it will be beautiful) or can we have a bare wall, an under-garment, because we know what comes next, a year, two, ten, a century on? If a wall is ugly now, will they leave it to become beautiful? If we make it pretty now, will it last to become beautiful? Is pretty now death for his wall?

Or perhaps he can hide his will-be-beautiful-one-day wall. Make the wall of a house, the house of a street, the street a village (but he knows it's all about his wall). He can laugh, "It's just a wall. A wall is a wall is a wall," and avoid those questions, refuse to talk when people say, but it feels more than just a wall, did you?

He has always been fascinated by walls. Tall red walls round English country gardens, dry walls across Bronteian moors. Neat yellow-bricked and fawn walls in tidy gardens, walls under green, surrounding old orchards, marble walls and steel walls, and walls of ice, even water-walls.

Inner walls and outer walls, thick walls, thin. Speedy walls and slapdash, crusty walls, lath-and-plaster, crumbling walls, rubble.

Once he looked at walls without seeing. A wall is a wall is a wall. Then one day - was he in love, was it hot? something was different - he just felt things, felt the way walls were, sensed the way walls are, how walls would be. And he started drawing his walls. To be frank, he drew walls poorly. He sketched, he caricatured, he misrepresented. He painted a little, but he was not an artist. He took photographs, read about walls in books, watched films about walls, listened to the radio, but mostly he just lived with walls, learned how to touch them, sense their breathing, understand where they had come from, rubble and mud, shepherds' bones, clay, chiselled ash, flint, horse-hair.

Now he is ready, a wall calls, a wall waits.

He sits in the sun. If a wall was here, just so, like this, here would be a pleasant spot. He feels a wall coming to him. He is desperate to begin, but he will not rush. He will not even imagine.

Instead, he drinks a little wine. He eats a little cheese. He breaks bread.

And pyramids, temples, Berlin, all float in the air. He sees brethren, ropes and pulleys, a barn flying upright (another burning, screams), and castles battered, undermined, and peace walls and ghetto walls, graffiti, paper, lacquer, hotel walls, a black, shining wall in the Capitol, names, names, names, and he breathes softly, a shepherd, a mason, a joiner, a poet, a man. He nibbles, sips, and then the wall begins to whisper, "I am ready. I will be."

692 words

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell: "Outliers-the Story of Success" 7:44am

I read an article by Malcolm Gladwell about the time it takes to be very good at anything (10,000 Hours) and that tied in with my beliefs about the sheer VOLUME we have to produce to gain mastery of our writing.

Beginners and intermediates take a lot of convincing over this. I say quantity begets quality but so much of “common-knowledge” suggests the opposite.

Anyway, I had to buy Gladwell’s book, even though we’re broke and I picked up his book “Blink” which is just as good a read. In Blink, Gladwell talks about instant decision-making and how it works, why it’s often brilliantly effective. But in there is much more including how easy it is to change people’s moods AND behaviour merely by salting a conversation with key words. That was, frankly, a bit scary, as was the tests that can show, even for those of us who believe race and colour is irrelevant, just what in-built biases we have.

These books are really excellent, great reads, stimulating, but also, VERY important for serious writers.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tell em What Yr Gonna Tell em

Tell Them What You’re Gonna Tell Them…

There’s a simple adage in giving factual talks: “Tell them what you’re gonna tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them.

I am going to suggest that’s what happens with a good short story.

See? I’ve just told you what I’m going to tell you. Has any suspense been lost? Or are you set up to pay attention? After all, I CAN’T be right, can I?

My story “Ballistics”. Well, yes, the title tells you that ballistics will feature, so no suspense there, then, and the text?

A set of car keys, fat as a grenade, is arching towards your eyeball. The tip of one key, v-shaped will precisely pierce the dark core of your eye. You're not yet two years old but this won't protect you. You are not old enough to understand that these keys, thrown in anger, began their journey a year before you were born, that maybe, a psychiatrist will say, they began even further back when a mother left a father, or further back than this, when a mining foreman, bitter, too bad for drink, strapped his wayward son.

So immediately, my premise is set out. Nothing is accident, things are not chance. Everything we do has a consequence. The story goes on to detail the accident, what happened to the child, and then the adult woman, but not before, paragraph two, we hear: One day you will marry a much older man, a man with a criminal record for violence, who shaves his head brutishly short, who has his country's emblem tattooed on his chest, but nothing, nothing of this exists yet…

The story brings the girl now woman and the now older father together. There was an affair, anger, the father threw keys, but the young woman now wants to know about the other woman, did her father love her? Perhaps the story has become richer, but still, it’s ballistics, just like the title and the opening said it would be.

Another story, “Miguel Who Cuts Down Trees” is about a guy, guess his name and what he does. It opens:

When I was a little boy, I had a wooden truck. One day the truck began to move by itself. It went around the yard and then it came back to me. I went to sleep. When I woke it was just a wooden truck.

When I was fourteen I was flying a kite. I saw an angel alongside my kite. She was very beautiful. I found I could make the angel move by pulling the string of my kite, but then I fell asleep and when I woke my kite was broken and trampled with mud.

Ask yourself. Will this be a happy story? Is the boy to be man destined to be rich and famous? You know he’s not, but why? Hasn’t the author directed you? Sure, you expect a plot, not everything is pre-explained, but don’t you sense the essence? If I show you the third paragraph are you now in any doubt about Miguel’s life?

When I was fifteen I loved another boy. He was beautiful, almost as beautiful as the angel on my string. My boy kissed me when it was dark but then I was awake and my father sent me to a far island to be a fisherman.

Poor Miguel will spend a life, use, abused, lost. And how will he end up? From the title, do you think he will have found an accommodation with the world? Do you think he has powers, or sees things?

All these stories are winners of first prizes. What do you think will be the main element of the story: An Old Man Watching Football After Sunday Lunch? Go on, guess.

I’m an old man watching football after Sunday lunch. Earlier we went to The Sun in the Wood. I had Cold Turkey, Mary had Roast Lamb, her mother looked like mutton dressed up, with mint-sauce. There we were, lording it, our Sunday-best, our table reserved as usual in the annexe, four bottles of Chateau Neuf du Pape opened and breathing, waiting for us when we arrived. El Perfecto!

My grandson plays soccer. (The manager is a clown). It’s a crap day, wet, wind, and I have to remind myself I’m a volunteer, here to watch my boy. When he pulls on that red shirt I realise he is the most important thing to me.

OK, so he’s old and watching soccer, but do you really think that’s all it will be? Why not? We know he (granddad) has a bit of “an attitude”, likes a hefty drink. We know what he does every Sunday. We know what is the most important thing in his world.

Each paragraph establishes facts and sets us up for what will come. But one hundred words in, frankly couldn’t this story go anywhere? Well, no, not anywhere, but it needs narrowing in.

Let me back-track a moment. For my pains, years back I sold my one decent novel. Now I hack out lousy copies, shadows of that first one, and for whatever reason I still get booked to talk to writers. Yesterday I was in Wales, a shit-hole seaside resort called Porthcawl – a writers conference – and I found myself visiting the town’s Rest Bay Hotel, a hotel for gentle-folks.

There’s that “attitude” again, but the guy is an old writer with an attitude, and is it not highly likely the attitude, the grandson, the idiot manager will all come together to make the story’s point?

In my story Green Glass, do you think glass will feature, and what colour will it be? Exactly!

When you say it, finally say it, when you tell her you're leaving, when you finally realise that loving her isn't enough, not if she can bring you so much pain, your anger is so great you crush the wine glass you're holding. You watch as splinters embed in your hand, as a long, wicked shard of dark green glass hooks into the flesh of your thumb, your Mount of Venus, and you watch the blood from your palm, your arm, flow magically red to the floor.
The blood is everywhere, the rug, the drapes, but she laughs at your crucified hand, your slashed wrist. She says, "My, honey, so much drama for such a pathetic little man. Rush yourself to the hospital, why don't you?"

You know green glass will matter. You can see the end of a relationship. So the story will be about a guy finding himself again, and that glass will feature. But will he love women or hate them or be afraid of them? Will the answer to that create the story’s tension? You tell me. Next paragraph.

There is a moment so black you want to kill her, then kill yourself, but you don't. You just leave. You leave her without another word, drive one-handed to the emergency room, get fixed. The nurse is older, thin-faced, with small grey eyes, a nose so sharp it looks dangerous. She doesn't much like you and when she speaks, spittle forms in the corner of her mouth. "Suicide," she says, "you need the stroke this way." She thinks this is funny, "Up the arm, and it's better with a razor."

You try to say it was an accident. "Sure," she says, and you think two bitches in one day, Jesus.

Do you think now he’ll get on the road?

The first night is anger-easy. After Nurse Ratchett has sewn you up you start driving. Earlier, you had thrown your typewriter, a bottle of Southern Comfort, a clean shirt in the trunk of the car. You check into the first motel you see as soon as darkness begins to drop across your eyes, you pay cash for the room, then you take the bottle, the shirt and the typewriter indoors.

So you know everything. This will be about how he loses then how he changes. I shan’t tell you more… and don’t forget the glass.

Who do you think The Bastard William Williams will be about?

I’m making you think, aren’t I?

I am the bastard William Williams, late of The Universal Pit, Senghennydd, then Abertridwr, and latterly the cellars of The Commercial Hotel, as pot man. Now that the dust have slowed me I am easy to find. I am still lived next door to the English Congregational Church, Commercial Road, Senghennydd. I venture from my place only for the English Cong, and in summer, if I am lucky, a visit from a relation.

Until the coaldust on my chest confined me to my front room I have been known as a hearty man. My years is matched exact to the century and for the most part it have been a good life, wholesome. I think though, with what have passed, I shall not like to be here when the clock strike two thousand.

Very quickly we get the man, his Welshness, and importantly that he refers to himself as “bastard”.

That has to matter.

We get a little bit more of “Wales” and then: I am not one for writing, and never was much of a one for talking either. I would not tell you of this, I would just let it go, but Lord forgive me, I am writing it down. I have a good copperplate strapped into me at town school which has never left me; I have my retirement pen, my Quink, a pad to write this and enough hot in me to bore a new pit-shaft. I must record the visit of the man Allen Jones. If I am not to get this out of me, I will surely be bursted, so better or worse, it shall go down.

Allen Jones, with long red hair like a woman, a liking for his own voice and him on a fired-up mission to discover his past.

And there it is, the whole set up. But then there’s this bastard thing, which must matter. Why do we know it matters? Because the author “old us.” He told us by making his title and by having the bastard nature emphasised in the first sentence.

Openings and endings, of stories, lectures, books, are important. Also the beginning and end of a paragraph are important. It’s there in a lecture that we make our big-hit points. See how in paragraph one we get “bastard” at the start and “visit” at the end. In para two we get his health at the beginning, then his age and date at the end. Then see how the specific importance (the reason for him telling the story) is at the end of a paragraph, and see how in the last paragraph his visitor is described, then the mission.

Most importantly we have all the ingredients of the story “up front”.

Mother, Questions is about a woman questioning her mother.


The first paragraphs do a lot.

Mother, can I ask, with you and Dad, my father, how did it happen, how was it? Were you frightened, excited, was he strong, was he clumsy?

You told me once, before you died, you said, "We walked out for almost a year and then, one day, on a bridge over the canal at Alt-y-ryn, he asked if he could kiss me." You said you laughed, couldn't help it. He ran home.

So Mum, how did you get from there to being my mother? How did that shy young man learn to make love? Was he your first, Mum? Nellie said to me once, (she was drunk on gins), she said you had a beau everyone wanted, but he was "a bit of a lad, a heart-breaker", wouldn't take no for an answer.

So we know immediately that the woman wants to speak about the father and sex (paragraph one) but then paragraph two shows us these questions are being asked of a dead mother. Is the daughter well?

Note too (end of a paragraph) that the father is shown refusing to take no for an answer. Why might that be?

Like with other stories, this one could still go in different directions, but the next paragraph is:

I always wondered, wondered how I happened. I'm here, some kind of me, and I'm you, the bridge across the water, my hopeless father. Am I my sisters too, am I my brother? If they hadn't come before me, you would have been different, things would have been different, nothing, nothing, nothing would have happened exactly as it did. I wouldn't be this me, I wouldn't be able to ask these questions. How can it be that I exist without it being necessary that I exist? But how could these loves, bridges, kisses, how could they have all made my history, made me this, put me here?

So, in this fiction we have a daughter, clearly tortured, reflecting on even being alive. And we know from earlier that she’s talking to her dead mother. Would it surprise yout to discover she was in a mental hospital? And is the tone not sad? Do you not have a fair guess at where this story is headed?

I’d like you to guess about the core fact in the story The Last Love Letter of Berwyn Price. Go on, try. Did you think it might involve a love letter? Do you think Berwyn is alive or dead?

So I have given away two-thirds of the story. Have I killed it? Well “Berwyn” placed second of 5,000 entries and has earned £1,150 to date, so maybe not?

The story itself opens unusually, with a Rugby Almanac entry which quickly tells us about Berwyn’s athletic life. We discover Berwyn was a famous rugby player and won a gold medal for sprinting. Then, right at the end of the entry is a small sentence: Son of Philip Price, Swansea & Aberavon, one Welsh cap.

This is fiction. Why on earth would we need that last sentence? Could it be that parents and children, the family line continuing, would be important?

Would you think that a rugby international, the son of a rugby international, might quite like a rugby international or two for sons?

And is Berwyn dead?

Mrs Bethan Price, if you're reading this, then it looks like I must have managed it, after all. I went and over-did it and popped my clogs, just like you and Doctor Llewellyn said I would. So bugger me, I'm dead, well what do you know? I'm sorry love, but if that's what happened, then it happened. I'll bet I died happy, though. Was it at the Arms Park? I bet all I could see when the moment finally came was red and white and green. I bet I could smell the lads and the mud, see the flags and hear Bread of Heaven!

I bloody well hope it was like that. I hope I didn't keel over on the way to the stadium. You and the girls…

So we know the man, his sporting history, that he was married, that he loved his wife, that he has died (and we think we know where) that he almost certainly wanted sons, but none are mentioned, and it’s about “men things”, sport, going there…

And does the tone suggest depressing or uplifting? Do you see how much has been given to you?

A story called The Quarry… Is it about a quarry where something is mined, or about a quarry being hunted? Could it be both?

It begins with a page of a young boy describing how to make a home-made crossbow. That description is straightforward but there are words underlined (emphasised to point them out to you.) What do they do or might they do?

This is how you make your crossbow. A piece of three-by-two pine [u]you got from a building site[/u], cut it up. Make a [u]crucifix[/u], two nails at the centre, otherwise the cross-piece moves. [u]You’ll have to buy[/u] the thick rubber, but no problem. [u]Get over the wall at the back of Feraro’s Chip Shop, steal a few pop-bottles, [/u]take them back in the morning for the deposits.

Nail the rubber along the cross-piece. Don’t put the nail through the rubber. It’ll split. Use a couple of nails each end, bang them in either side of the rubber, then smash them over the rubber till it squishes down. You have to do two nails, otherwise it can come out. That happened to Colin Hicks. [u]It’s why he’s got a glass eye.[/u]

Never mind the plot, think character. What kind of kids? Are they law-abiding citizens? Note crucifix and nails. What religion is the narrator?

Approximately one page in, the instructions finish. We then get this:

Practice a bit over the Gollers, hitting cans and shooting at the rabbits. You’ll have to be a dead-eye dick. You won’t get two shots.

You use your sister, practice in the front room. You tell Maddie it’s the only way. You have to get good because otherwise, well just, otherwise...

So we know these kids are petty thieves, make seriously dangerous home-made-crossbows, that something is dangerous as they won’t get two shots. We also know it involves Maddie and they must practice until they are perfect. While you can’t precisely know what comes next, you have to presume this involves the narrator, his mate or mates, crossbows, Maddie, and great danger.

They have or quarry or this happens in a quarry.

In L for Laura; L for Love the protagonist is an “OK”, but not too bright bloke:

Ay for orses, remember that? A for orses, B for mutton? C fer yerself, D fer payment? Not sure I could remember it all. I'm not even sure if that's right, A-B-C-D.

A is really for Alice, B for Billy Smith she ran off with. C is for Clown, me for not noticing. D is for Diane my second, after we had to wait all those years until I was officially deserted.

It’s a fair bet this is about “Laura” and love. But is the protagonist a lucky guy? We know almost immediately that he’s been twice-cuckolded. What’s the betting that what’s to come is a new woman? The question is, will he finally get lucky or end up cheated again. See how little is withheld.

Ford Maddox Ford’s novel “The Good Soldier” opens, “This is the saddest story I have ever heard.” Let’s not settle down for a comedy, then!

Of course, being “up front” with the reader doesn’t always mean being direct and obvious.

But “what will come” can also be heralded subtly, with vague hints, with the tone and music of the piece as well as blatant “telling”.

In The Smell of Almond Polish the title is NOT a clue. We can only presume that almond polish and its smell will feature. And when the story opens:

Paddington, London, 1954

Bridie Collins steps down from the train, waits for the crowd to wrap her up. She looks above her; pigeons scattering under the great glass roof. Someone bumps her shoulder, rushes on. In the half-light she shivers, picks up her cardboard case and walks towards the ticket collector.

We get the date and an important character. But what about the tone? Happy? Sad? When you have decided, ask where the tone comes from, and how much does the tone steer the reading?

But why is Bridie here, and like this?

On the train, from Wales, Bridie had listened to the clattering songs in the track. "Did she do right? Well, did she do right? What could she have done? What should she have done? Was it right, was it right, was it right?"

After twenty-minutes, about an hour-and-a-half ago, the train had slowed down, clacking and slapping as it crossed points, then easing into the dark Severn tunnel. Bridie had felt her first real moment of guilt, then. How could she have left Pat, Jenny, Ronnie? And Barbara, Angela? Smoke had leaked in through an open window, but then the train emerged into light sunlight, bright, fresh English green, and she was excited. Now the rails whispered, "Of course it was right. Of course it was right. What else could you do, could you do, could you do? It was right. It was right. It was right."

We now have Bridie’s recent history. She has left home. Do we think she is a good person or a bad person? I think the tone and the music, and one line declares how she should be viewed.

But in the case of this story we do not appear to have the full story and outcome given to us (clearly OR subtly) but if this was a lecture on Bridie’s story, what is here would say “Bridie left her husband and children to run away to London, because she feels she had no choice. But still she feels guilty. My lecture will show how Bridie fights to establish herself but remember that the pull of motherhood is very strong.”

OK, in this case we have to wait and see, but nevertheless, note just how many alternative possibilities have been eliminated. The reader can be in little doubt as to the kind of read that is coming.

Should we empathise and sympathise with Bridie? Is she big and strong, money in her pocket, or tiny, timid, a leave in the wind?

The ticket-collector is a darkie. He smiles, has gold on one tooth. Bridie smiles back. Steam hisses somewhere, everything smells of sulphur. People push round her. She picks up her little case and walks out of the station into a damp morning. She has nowhere in the world to go.

Let’s hear it for Bridie!!

As I have said, many good stories, prize-winning stories can open with a clear direction and “almost instantly” declare themselves. I’ve also said they can be more subtle. This is a recent flash.


We are brothers, three old codgers on a shingle beach beneath a staggering moon. We are old, old, with our trousers rolled, and we are each of us and all of us, a little crazy.

We are escapees, illicit, sucking in a feeling as deliciously wicked as a hand up a sitting skirt beneath a coat, as glorious as stolen icing sugar and marzipan in a Christmas kitchen, as lucky as death pushed back again.

By now the word must be out. Discrete alarms ring or buzz, three Welshman and the night is cold – related yes, and all as mad as a cat – yes, yes, dead or alive will be fine.

There is nothing direct here, but what will happen to these brothers? Ask, what do we have. The title, gives us “boat” (and could also signify “in the same boat”. We hear they are crazy, they are “escapees”. The word death and dead occurs in the first 108 words.

Go on. Guess.[/quote]

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cover Art for My Collection

Prompts Friday for 21:30

My mistress asks for a bracelet

Bread Pudding, the top crisp and black


The moon was up, the lake was clear

Late August, and after heavy rain, the sun broke through


I remember playing musical chairs, and girls, Oh!


Red sky at night, God is bored and showing off

I turn to ducks, I mean, really, ducks?

The call it the mother of the earth

Dreary midnight and I'm tired

Gently, pick him up, move him from the shadows

A fire in my head

This world is whacky, whacky, whacky

Jamaican philosophy. Am I a vegetable? I fink therefore I'm a yam

Red buses, throbbing black taxis, light overhead

Washing on the line, the smell of boiling clothes

Prompts Friday 20:17

Never such innocence again

This is our beginning; a picture

Someone will think there's a moral in this

I am not there. I do not sleep

Buds of chestnuts, ferns, birch-branch

Ice to river, river to sea


I don't want you. Don't tempt me

But otherwise everything is fine

A book, but not as we know it, Jim

In black and white

I will, I think, I might, I am

From this, deliver us, to that, deliver us


The hills above the water, dark animals asleep

If you can keep your house, when all about you are losing theirs...

Dirty British Coaster

And the afternoons, the evenings, the nights

Very Black

Prompts, Friday 7PM

Beneath the Rubble

Why should not old men be mad?

How We Lived Then

Because we love the hills, the falling dark

Accidents in the Home

Here, pausing at the entrance

If anybody half as fair

I call on those who call me brother

I met this bishop in the Turkish Baths

Three old codgers on the beach

A murmur of too-soft words

The Dublin Gutter

There is safety in derision, the pack surrounds

The moon is staggering

How long will it take will it take, to hit the ground?

Much did I rage before

A noble horse, a dog, and faithful both, are dead

Thursday, November 20, 2008

2300 Prompts

The Bee-Keeper

Quality, Quality

No added salt

The fire crackles; outside the trees strain against the night

Mr Bleaney slept here

I'm sure there's nothing going on

A big three-wheeler motor-bike

Asparagus? Nah, Chaffinch

Sometimes I stop and walk backwards for a while

I am trying to be smaller

Uniformed, uninformed, cerebral cortex hardly-formed

This little piggy

Prompts at 21:00 Thursday

Google "Glimmer Poo" and follow links until...

A story beginning, "If I had to fuck a bear, I'd choose Paddington"

A story ending, "If I had to fucj=k a bear again, I'd choose Paddington."

or use

A terrible beauty is born

We sat together one summer's end

The TV in another room

Around me the images of thirty years

You and I, and her. We talked of poetry

If I became a broken man

Let's enumerate old disputes

Murmur names, names, names

I have met them at close of day

A message arrives: PING!

I have seen the lights go out

Before the world was made, there had been a run on hope.

Three women, that'll do

Love like a cold night in November

Prompts at 20:00 Thursday

A story beginning, “You realise I will lie to you?”

A story ending “On my mother’s grave…”

Or Google “Toffee Penis” and follow links until something on the web prompts you to write a story

When I have those fears that I will cease to be
Extra Strong
Gary's at the match, I'll need to be
Whoever guesses, thinks or dreams he knows
Methodical, wiping spit, a little sun cream
My life has waited in corners
Hey bud, I could commentate
There’s a certain slant of light
Sometimes you only hear about it second-hand, or fifth
April 19th, Driving
There are things we need and hate and need to hate
Fires & Human Behaviour
The burn after shaving
Catching Life by the throat
Coming this way on a different line
Why we have a navel
Mr Dickory and Jennifer Dock
Here, take my picture
Catch a falling star
Teach me to hear the mermaids singing
A catastrophe of charlatans
I love Sally Smith
One morning, I saw these three
You say Tomato
McDonalds, burning flesh upon the air
The difference between a grandson and a cactus

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Calling all Ex-BootCampers and Gridders

I have a Facebook presence now as:

Alex Boot Camp Keegan

and I've set up a group:

Boot Camp Keegan & Gridders Alumini

(sorry about the spelling)

We are trying to link all those misbegotten souls who were with us in the early days (eg Mimi Carmen, Geri Borcz, Suzanne Proulx, Benjamin Graber) and all those who were with us when we were in MOVING PEN, then those who survived the SCRAWL WARS, those who were with us when we had the Yahoo Gridders presence, those in Boot Camp (not on Yuku) and lastly those in TLC at Writers Dock

Join us, link to me as a friend in Facebook and I'll invite you into the group


Monday, November 03, 2008

CiN Details

Children in Need 2008
For the last three years we've held Flash Blasts for Children in Need (CiN) and these have raised well over £10,000 for the charity.

The format is simple. We start at 1800 Hours on the Thursday and write non-stop until midnight Friday.

Naturally, only about half-a-dozen hardy souls manage the thirty hours, but the idea is to have SOMEONE writing at all times. Many write 1800-2400 both days, and a bit in the day on the Friday.

We raise money in two ways.

First there's an entry fee of £30.

This breaks down into

£10 for prizes (all the prize fund is paid out)
£10 for CiN
£10 for a copy of the anthology (may be 2 copies)

SECOND, individuals collect sponsorship for their writing over the thirty hours. They deal with this separately but we total the amounts

All the stories/flashes/poems arrive anonymously and after the Blast we select the best XX for an independent judge to choose the 1-2-3-4-5

PS I disqualify my stuff from the competition

An anthology is produced of the best stuff but we try to include at least one piece from each participant. Obviously sales of the anthology (£10) will raise further monies for CiN

With a large organisation like Writers Dock we could easily get 100 participants, and that £10,000 raised could like like chicken-feed.

I should say, for those who have never tried "blasting" the results can be incredible. Many first prizes have evolved from CiN Blast work

So sign up now

Next post will show the list of people (pseudonyms are OK) but we would like their place of residence


04 Aristo Belgium
05 Tommo Northern Ireland

Children in Need 2008 (CLICK HERE)

I've been sick for two weeks so this is late but our charity fund-raiser for kids will take place again this year.

For those interested in face-to-face meetings and mutual support I'm opening up the Chapel in North Wales to all-comers

Friday, October 31, 2008

Old Pikkies, the Chapel

Just browsing and found some old old pikkies

The Chapel

We stopped for a few days in the Chapel this week, officially a holiday (ha-ha)

All that's left to do now is clean and polish the terracotta floors and put up a few more bookshelves.

There will be music and books in every room and I'm in the process of transporting more than a thousand books into the place, mostly good literature, plenty of craft books etc

There are four computers there, broadband, dining for twelve

Three showers, three loos, a bathroom and non-stop piping hot water

There's Sky HD-TV with all the extra channels, and an antique bar-billiards table.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Upstair Bedrooms

There are two bunk bedrooms upstairs.

I was about to post pictures but blogger won't play.

Watch this space.

More on the Chapel

The chapel's downstairs has three large bedrooms, a bathroom and loo, separate shower-room/toilet, and opposite, two more showers, a loo and a utility-room.

The double bedroom above is the smallest. It's hard to do justice. Even with a 17mm lens I can't get a full shot! The walls are about 2-3 feet thick (and then we had to insulate them to modern standards!) so there are gorgeous mahogany cill that have about the same square-footage as my first flat. (Plenty of scope for planting your books!

Above is the seating area of Bedroom 2, There's enough room for a full-size leather sofa (a sofa-bed) so people can "escape to their room". Only formally sleeping two, this room can sleep four (Mum and Dad can have the kids in there if they want to, or two singles can have a double each...)

And there's a computer, of course.

That's the second double. And very comfy it is too!

Chapel Update

The chapel in Wales moves ever closer to completion. This week sees the finish of the cosmetics, painting skirting boards etc and next week we have the stair banister fitted and then the stair-carpet. One thing holds up completion now, and that's exhaust fans in the bathrooms (don't ask me!)

Currently there are two straightforward double-bedrooms, and three bunkrooms sleeping a total of 13, but additionally there are five sofa beds. We did that because we never know what combination of singles or couples will turn up!

The table seats twelve.

The chapel's situation is great. The village is peaceful and sits close to the foot of Cader Idris but on the coast. There's a fully operational railway line that goes North to fairbourne, Barmouth, Harlech, Portmerion, Portmadoc, Criccieth and Pillwelli.

Travel South for Twyn, Aberdovey, Macynlleth where you change for Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury.

We've built this to live-in long term but while we can't it's a fantastic writers' retreat and I place where whole groups can stop. I've started shifting in hundreds (hundreds!) of Craft and How-to books, short-story collections, many, many lit-mags, biographies and autobiographies of writers, and of course, some good literature.

There is telephone and broadband there, at least four computers, a printer.

What I really hope, though, is to run writing courses there, the BC way. We had great success running course in Berkshire at Kingfisher Barn but that was always a squeeze. Here is perfect.

Nearest Cafe Five Yards.
Nearest Evening Bistro. Five Yards.
Nearest Post Office. Five Yards
Nearest Shop. Twenty Yards.
Nearest Pub. Seventy Yards
Nearest Railway Station. 500 yards

Mountains? Yes!
The Sea? Yes!

Monday Prompts

It is eighteen years to the day

In lamb fields, on dotted slopes

I see a playground, an ant-scatter of children

How do we know we aren't already dead?

Oh I have danced the sky as feathers

The life that I have is all that I have

The Farmer's Bride

There was a steady wind and the sky was pale

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the leaning trees

This is my country!

It must have been too cold for him, his soul gave out

Love's dances, Love's retreats, advances

And I was green and carefree, lying in soft fields

He with footstep heavy, her with sunny hair

When I was thirteen or so. green

But one by one we must move on, through the valley of pain

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And more!

And More!

More Capel Bethel Pictures

Latest on Capel Bethel

Capel Bethel, Llwyngwril (between Dolgellau and Tywyn) gets ever closer to being finished.

I am looking forward to running weekend and week-long course there and already the place is stocking up with literature!

Here are some pikkies

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sunday Lunchtime Prompts

Without a hero
The sound of wind at night
An awful stillness, heat
She was good at faces
You could shoot anything you wanted, for a price
Strange weather
There's a man in the house
This is the first thing I noticed
So when did it all start?
Gigantic, fantastic women
We could go to Alaska?
It's not that I don't like you
There's a man I know, talks only of Jesus
Sitting on the Dock of the Bay
Two strangers on the bus, Grandma
Afterwards they were black from head to toe
Voices in the dark
On his knees, scrubbing in tiny circles
A wild justice
My mother and father are dead, or in Orlando
On the other hand, not
I am like a sleepy fish

Friday, September 05, 2008

Friday Prompts

A small bird is taken by a hawk
It is a cold evening
An old man sits quietly netting
A child looks from a train
He puts his hand to his face, unbelieving
The air smells of fish
The sea is heavy, swelling
It is too dark
The road that used to go there refuses now
The headscarved women
History is bunk
You have to understand the fish
Only the poor can afford lots of children
Does night change to day?
Stealing milk from the urn, scooping cream
Uncle Jonjo
For some reason, there are too many wheelbarrows
I want a dream kitchen, a kitchen to dream in
I eat fish we caught
We have too many books
No Matter What
Jennifer Eccles' Fat Sister
Call me and I will describe it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Thursday Prompts

His Mam loves him to bits

Blue Lagoon

At my door is a square of yellow corn

Davies the Doom has burned the chapel down

What city is this?

My father and my mother and my brother and my sister

Let's burn some books

The wink and nudge of secrets in the pub

It starts to feel like Ireland

I'd rather not be American

Piano Man

Last night I dreamt I ate wire

Why do some fat men look strong, some fat?

Resonant Frequency

Stone, Stone, Water, Wind

I see people in old photographs


Suddenly we are lost

If you time it right, you can get there at low tide

A place without certainty

He used to be safety officer on the Titanic

You want ice with that?

What are we waiting for?

A meteor lands tonight, we all must die

May I borrow your country?

I think I'll play monopoly, or charades

How much I love my daughter


The smell of an old railway station

My mother

Waiters on roller-skates, meals on wires overhead

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wednesday Prompts

I turned on the radio and water came out
Hatches, Matches & Dispatches
Thirteen ways to look at it
Because it dissolves
The electrician is out of contact
Riding the Yellow Trolley Car
You were being silly
He disappeared in the dead of winter
I sit in a dive on 52nd St
Knowing each other too well to talk
Out of the blue I remember. My father playing football
The brooks were frozen, airports closed
An island five miles inland
They are living off their reputation but it cannot last
Catch 18, and it's going to get worse
That's a lovely offer, but
You were right my dear, even when you were mad
The best of times, the shittiest of times
If I grow up, I'm going to be a boy
The room was suddenly rich with soft light
Whacky Posters
Go tell it on the fucking mountain
Building new homes at Buschenwald
Time was away and somewhere else
I have a desert but no camel
The waiter does not come
I asked my son when was he getting married. In the afternoon, he said.
The day needs a plaster, a bandage
I stand for old values. Give the black man a fair crack of the whip
I dream of being loved by a chorus-girl
My guru says
I am old and I have too may layers of paint
There was a camp here

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Tell us the story about the little boots


When Saturdays were only for football

Torn Envelope

And the pit-heads baths is a supermarket now

Death by Sunbed

There was a picture made of flowers


He worked in the steelworks

How you can push, push with your anger

Tonight, January fog

How much that dies with them

A mother moves away to birth her lamb

Let the number be learned

In a few month's time I will stop and linger

Old men like monkeys

February Streets

In clear snow like laughter

I have known too many of the murdered


Mrs Blenkinsop keeps a tiger in her cellar


You wouldn't know the place now


Old, so old, and short of wind

We went on holiday to London with Mam

We who wait

The old sad things have been forgotten

When old age came he stood up and kicked it

On the wrist, a watch

Saturday, August 30, 2008


It was love at first sight


All day it has rained

I am amused

Love drips and gathers


Dominoes, Woodbines, Senior Service

A most curious device

Raking through the ashes

I have learned to dream with the sound off

Sailors Killed it

I think we need to say goodbye

It takes sixpences

With my pockets full of money



You roll away and show me your sullen back

The Loch Ness Mobster

I was young and easy then

The window is filthy

Shall I get drunk or eat a piece of cake?


Time ate my love and farted, then you departed


Recognizing a red kite

Put a shilling in the gas, your head in the oven

Last night I met my father

I am preoccupied

Words are my instruments but not my servants

The Lover & Her Killer

A house with bleached-white walls

How to Kill 101

Saturday Prompts

Barely a twelve month after
Three old shops, all in the name Jones
Do not ask, "What is it?"
Violence upon the roads
Two dark tractors, pausing
A pale light
sawdust bars, the sounds of angry men
A lovely piece of slate
There is a girl standing there
Our life is changed: their coming our beginning
It was a soft October night, summer at last
His quick body
You can cast out past the fish
The sun used to shine, remember?
Leave, then
We heard a distant tapping on the road
A sunrise like military best
She slipped away to die quietly
I love this, as some day a child will love it
I have mislaid the key
For I have known them all already
Only an avenue, dark and nameless
I see the image of a naked man
We did not dare go near them
The entrance is blocked by brambles
Late in the summer the strange horses came

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tuesday Prompts

I told my son about my father
There's water still in the bath
The pub quiz: it's all about winning
Why not be a Brain-Surgeon?
Kite Surfing 101
There's a problem at the bridge
Trying to fix a light
Big Boy
Sudoku for the damned
The boys done well
A handy electrical gadget
A quarter ton of lego
The sound of cars passing in the wet
Why she doesn't phone
Whisky without the e
In the not too distant future, if all my dreams come true
This is a stupid way to die
With sawdust, string and patches
From the hill I saw a line of snaking tenements
Bush Meat
Under an awning, talking about nothing; rain
Is surviving suicide a success or failure?
Two rooms done and the doors closed
A three-legged hippo
It may be pretty, but is it appropriate?
Arctic elephants are the same as African ones. But colder.
Treasure Island

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bank Holiday Prompts

Pictures of old London
Discovered by a monk
It torments me, this injustice
She is big and plump and happy
If you can keep your head
Refreshed every two minutes
Shifting the furniture
Glasses, but naff
Tea, biscuits, a rest
The sound of bickering
I need to be very drunk
Oh for a muse of fire
What bells are these that toll?
Do NOT close the cupboard
Anyone can use them
I wondered lonely, under a cloud
City of Angels
The thing I like is overcoming
Another Monday!
Muscle for the wing
Just at that moment, Carol came in the back door
He lifted a bowl of nuts and offered them
Deep Blue Goodbye
The Edge of Reason
I’ve come for a payment on the bed
Why the vacuum cleaner makes me angry
Out of the Sun
What I’m saying is I’m a drunk, not an alcoholic
Electric Polisher
An amazing ending
Mother, mother, where did you go?
I try not to see my sister too often
He was a sort of commando
A thousand blessings, Effendi
I claim death
The difference between clams and mussels
The café is shut.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More Prompts

I've been away a few days, but here:

When all this is over, I shall give them the finger
The weakening eye of day
I saw an x-ray of a baby
Unwearied still, lover after lover
Not even in my thoughts
I did not think death could undo so much
She is beautiful. I dream about her.
The rain flies down the street, flaps outside our door
All the sun long it was running
Appointment in Basingstoke
The stove’s heat mottling her legs
Moving the books
Her dead body wears the smile of accomplishment
I know where you are
Thinking of an old lover makes it hard
We renounce everything except the self
Uzi Wedding
Her floured hands at the baking board
Show me the kitchen, the knives
Three thousand years ago they didn’t give a fuck
I would like to be terminally ill
Red and yellow, silver-back, half-imagined things
16 GIG
I kept my wife’s heart in a canary’s cage
I’m going to sail round the world
I cannot speak to you
Horses passed from dawn into the night, horses, horses, horses.
We come to terms with shade, the principle of grey
One or two blackmailers, a poisoner
Unnatural Acts
Every fear is a form of desire
Use the back entrance

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday Prompts

A sound of banging from upstairs
Keeping them apart
Although a true love never dies, it can become unreal
An empty can of Pepsi
Sailing in the dark towards Oslo
Perfect apart from the missing door
A slip on the stairs
I have come often to these open halls
Drained, empty
Where the streets have no name
Mark is at the door
The dark is rising
It’s a perfect size for DVDs
There’s published and published
The end one is split
In the not-too-distant future, if all my dreams come true
Majesty, Majesty
The legend of Luke McCauley
A swollen floor
Northern Lights
I’m gonna tear your playhouse down
Who Wants to Live Forever?
Air on a G-String
An angel of the great white way

Monday, August 18, 2008


December. Another Monday.
If we mattered they’d have to feel guilty
Bright-faced, her eyes darting.
A brush with drowning
He could see her in his rear-view mirror, long and slim
Her thoughts were filling the silence
There was darkness and a silence she could feel
It was “Teach Yourself Flying”
She was shoeless and massaging one of her black-stockinged feet
They went down to the canteen via the back stairs
You measured harassment by the square yard
They heard a quick rush of men’s laughter
My Billy is an angel
The rounded-down sterility that came from a ball-point pen
They were brewing up behind the bar
She was a tallish size twelve with shining black hair
A thin air job
She wished that she was running, right now
Remember, God sent me.
They can do it to us because we’re nothing.
This is the one. She likes me.
She lived alone on a quiet estate of Barratt houses
Perhaps she had smelt something burning
Thank-you for your co-operation
We’re looking for a man in a dirty raincoat
They were bound to talk about men
Her hands at ten-to-two on the wheel
They parked in a side-street
A massive oak tree
Sunlight flashed off bone
He’s magnificent!” she said.
Four or five hundred yards away to their left
The temperature had finally crept above zero
A dark green sheen on the grass
She twitched her nose, sniffing at the air.
I feel shitty if you must know
From the bushes he saw the two of them
He was in a Nike shell-suit and a pair of New Balance trainers
Then the women turned and walked away
He felt something cold snap around his wrists
We don’t fancy the paperwork
The parking’s crap in central Richmond
Man-hating would do for now.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Prompts

A misunderstanding wings in
The spaces between people
Girls in the river, the water up to their waist.
Banana Salad
In the dark houseboats families were stirring
All our lives we must forget
Red Bus
The bride, holding her flowers too tightly
I predict my predictions are always wrong
Grief by instalments
On the muddy bank, boys are fishing
And still they die
I sit drinking, thinking. The coffee is bitter
Prince Thingumebob, from what’stheplace
Wooden Crosses
What I am is not important
Fear swells the heart
Brute force will do
He trod cautiously over the dead
Dogs slavering behind barbed wire
Syllable has too many syllables
A girl in exile
Fool’s Gold still looks nice
Your daughter is accomplished, Madam
What EXACTLY is in that sandwich?
Mistakes in Nightclothes
Things bin-men collect
A little bit to prove
The morning hits me like a fuck-off phone-call
What was left was fine
Some bastard stole my life and left my wife

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Prompts For Sunday

My father, crying in St Mary’s
I am worn out with dreams
My love, I never spoke to her, but she heard every word
Smoke in the Valley
I am a man now
Al night in submarine light
My hands are red with the blood of the dead
I think about the FBI
We drove fast, singing, playing the Stones
I know that I shall meet my fate
He was a schoolmaster
Agnes fiddling with her rosary
Tread softly
A boy like a ballet dancer, poised
Oh love and you so far away
I draw your attention to the window
A sadness of penguins
Hair pale as a breath
If I should love a fat lady
Somewhere, on the other side of this wasted night
I took my son’s girlfriend home
How delightful it may be
Losing is fairly easy
I lost my father in Waitrose
My friends rise up and chant
Yellow pissholes in the snow
I can name them all
Television and other necessities
Passing bells
My daughter is drawing a picture
We can get so far in this world
I once bathed in a bath full of eels
Time is a bastard
Shall I compare thee to a Lamborgini?
Isobel from the estate kissed me
When all this is over, I’ll retire
It’s a shame about the shadow
At night I do not know who I am
I walk through your rooms, wondering
I am acquainted with the dark

Saturday Prompts

In the depths of the Greyhound terminal
The soldier takes pride in saluting his captain
A white mare
My days wind out, aimless, hopeless
Old men and women, rich and poor
Gold, Gold, Gold, Gold, Gold
A cricket bat, a box
Nothing to do with Hamlet
Two men in blazers
The boys are not well
It’s about the end of the world
Clear plastic
An aged man is a paltry thing
This is fresh
I shall hide behind being old
The fun starts here
We pace along the battlements, hoping
Two men have been found
Edgar wins!
A winding staircase, candles flickering
A Mexican green pepper
Without love, the world is too heavy
Rage-driven, rage-tormented
When we were young we had pretty toys
They are holding a public meeting
I started running weeks ago. I will not stop
I’m trying to come to the point
On the cover of TIME
Through icy streets
There are places where I have not been
They reject spirit
This man can sing!
I imagine a land, rain-soaked

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday prompts

There’s a problem with Mrs Evans
White on White
When you are old, if you should think of me
Yes, but apart from the race massacres?
And they killed the cat
The edges of doors
Full English Breakfast
Katie is back soon
Rocked the cradle etc
Two single duvets
How do I love Theo? Let me count the ways
Twenty-eight hours
A lot of rough edges
No, THIS is a knife
Boil, carbuncle
It is cooler than we expected
I know she died, but how?
I keep my son awake
Go gently, go otherwise, but go.
We are arguing. Twenty? Thirty?
I don’t like how the wind comes through
My gnome has run off again
I heard he was Welsh, but OK
Blessings, Effendi
I may go, I may come back. But I will only come back if I went.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Prompts for Thursday Morning

(unless you are staying up all night)

Wednesday Night Prompts

Forgive me for naming you
Your dark geometry
Not British
A clean, white apron
The wars come and the wars come
Two Jokers
I have not sent you a letter and I doubt it will arrive
Howl, Howl.
When all is said and done, at the end of the day
A tall bird in a small tree
On a motorway bridge
You never asked what he was like.
There are men seeking my father
If October comes
A dull light shines behind a muslin curtain
I think we should finish now
Consider death
This is not a test I wish to take
In a bluebell wood, bluebells
We could meet at the station
Virgin Mary
I'm beginning to dislike mornings
A small bird, impaled on a thorn
We know love, little by little
A shadow whispering
He was part of the place

Wednesday Morning Prompts

This is the wind, the wind down a long valley
Sunlight is a thing that needs a window to be called light.
Have you heard something?
Battered by time and weather
Doors open and close with tinkling bells
I saw a thousand years pass
Two old men exchanging prose
Table, Glass
The gate is held together by wire
It will be always at a distance
I will do murder and then drink tea
Think of the spaces
Daughter, do not go where it is dark
I cannot sit in that chair
Cigarette Burns
I do not trust this light
Maybe we could get together on day, and talk about
There is a dance at Billy’s tonight
These are indifferent streets
I think of my father emptying the grate
We danced on broken glass and sang
Dragged through streets at dawn
He is chained in an old subway tunnel
I need a sordid movie
Dreams cluster there and turn cold
There are light months and dark months
You are far away, dark in your small fields
Leave it to nature and it will sprawl

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Struggling a Bit, and Prompts

A bereavement, three on holiday, one doesn't have time to do critiques, one off on business and suddenly the group shrinks. Damn! (This is why you always need twice as many as you think you need)


You plan for it, have all the equipment
Photographs do not burn like paper
The smell of breakfasts over the dunes
I was too young, and old enough
On the hottest, stillest day of summer
The Collected Perms of Mariella Wilkins
When I was not a young child
This is too long, too dry, I think we need to worry
Couples, Cardigans
Is that not how good stories go?
The evening is swelling
If love goes, was it ever there?
Victoria and Albert
All things can tempt me from my craft
Thomas was a fat drunken fuck
You could have gone back
Summer is late and autumn squeezed out
Shall I part my hair, or eat a peach?
I am looking for a river
We both lost, falling
Under my window, water runs
The first word after a long silence
Here is a recipe
He calls to those who called him father
Three Hail Marys
I know seven ways there
And loitering within
Getting up early on a Sunday morning
Various Museums
Four dripping candles and a room full of sadness

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Afternoon Prompts

The courtyard is filthy
Blue Light
The tree frog croaks its far-off song
I love you Lady Singleton
Anon wrote it
There’s a fish that talks in the kitchen
I dare not remove my cap and let my birds escape
I am having a breakdown in Marks & Spencers
I have a jolly, jolly gun
Am I the only person who finds snow desolate?
They are closing all the stations
Sergeant Brown’s Parrot
Though the night was made for loving
Dixon of Dock Green
The yellow half-moon large and low
Everything changes
Stop all the clocks. Cut off the telephone.
I see a man digging, moving holes
Books on shelves, threatening to move
I wanna be your lover, baby
Last night I dreamt in Japanese
I lied to please the mob
Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing
Hit Man is two words?
Aunt Jennifer made love to a tiger, and all was well at first

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Night Prompts

I want to have another living summer
Cluster One
In February, digging his garden, planting potatoes
What do you want from me?
A ghostly batsman plays forward on a ghostly ball
It’s not romance, simply how things are
Poles apart
Yellow-Brown woman smelling of onions
Clearing a path through snow
The same news in different houses
A great day for freedom
Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing
Wearing the inside out
Come live with me and be my love
A thing of beauty is a joy until it’s obsolete
Take it back
Sometimes things don’t get better, ever
Coming back to life
The sun can melt a field of sorrow
Keep talking
I was born twice and died three times
Lost for words
The room, all of us, suddenly rich
High Hopes
It is too calm, something is wrong
Signs of Life
In Spanish he whispered, there is no time left
I am very, VERY fond of bananas
With smells of steak in passageways
Learning to Fly
Would you like to borrow my space-suit?
The dogs of war
Once in a finesse of fiddles, I found ecstacy
One slip
Bournvita, Bournvita, Bournvita
On the turning away
He breathed in air and breathed out light.

14 Signed, 37 Flashes, 5 Stories, 4 Poems 105 Crits

Rock On!


Two More Signed Up over the weekend, but then two away on holiday!! Crits past 100.


A Maltese Falcon
Be copy now to men of grosser blood and teach them how to war
The Lady Eve
And it was at that age that I awoke
Never give a sucker an even break
Every old man I see reminds me of my father
Wolf Man
The harbour lights glaze over restless docks
How Green Was My Valley
My credit cards are incandescent
Sullivan's Travels
Know then thyself
Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke-stack
The Outlaw
From time to time our love is like a snail
She is a sound in the air, whispered, soaring
No, I ain't got nothing but my horse
Citizen Kane
I have so much nothing. I have cornered the market
Woman of the Year
The trick is sleep till 12 then watch TV
Hanging breathless over the teletype
The sea is calm tonight
To Be or Not to Be
Don't be rude to alligators until you've crossed the river
I place my hope on the water
The best are those who die quite young and stay pristine
Mrs Miniver
The peaceful waters of your mouth
The Magnificent Ambersons
Kids walking in the dark road
The Black Swan
I wish I could believe in something beyond
You, hope, my football team
Cat People
This is the dawn I was waiting for
An Old Serbian Legend
The crossed-out bits of Keats, the edits
Shadow of a Doubt
Cut me to pieces, birds will still sing and worms crawl
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen
The Ox-Bow Incident
I Walked With a Zombie
Heaven Can Wait
The Raven
Double Indemnity
Bathing Beauty
The Woman in the Window
Arsenic and Old Lace
Ladies of the Park
Great Freedom Number Seven
To Have and Have Not
Cover Girl
Henry V

Saturday, August 09, 2008

96 Critiques so Far

It's hard to comment/crit when you are working flat out producing but we approach our hundredth crit now

13 Signed, 37 Flashes, 3 Stories, 4 Poems

Going OK.

Here are some more prompts. I seem to have mislaid some!

Blind eyes like unshelled hard boiled eggs
There was a river
An old man sits next to his beer
I have had lovers, all sub-prime
Thinking of fish we have caught, almost caught
A Red Wheelbarrow
We took turns, and she said yes, then why did it feel wrong?
Once, after a long day of unremitting rain, the sun
What if the road you often took, was moved at night?
Scooping Cream
What if there was never surprise?
The nearest shop is miles away
The life of a leaf
Suddenly there are cattle, rumbling towards McDonalds
Shopping Carts and Rain, and amber light
Now something is in the air
I have heard, the children are returning
DIE, Bond!
If you could unwind history, where to stop…
Of course the world is not enough
Late September
Once I asked my grocer for a perfect potato
Nobody there, just fruit on bramble
Stainless Steel
You said it wasn’t worth the trouble
Day Rises, and quiet
I caught a tremendous fish
I have loved three women, married others

Friday, August 08, 2008

12 Signed, 3 Stories, 33 Flashes, 3 Poems

The thing grows!

Here are some more prompts

Blind eyes like unshelled hard boiled eggs
There was a river
An old man sits next to his beer
I have had lovers, all sub-prime
Thinking of fish we have caught, almost caught
A Red Wheelbarrow
We took turns, and she said yes, then why did it feel wrong?
Once, after a long day of unremitting rain, the sun
What if the road you often took, was moved at night?
Scooping Cream
What if there was never surprise?
The nearest shop is miles away
The life of a leaf
Suddenly there are cattle, rumbling towards McDonalds
Shopping Carts and Rain, and amber light
Now something is in the air
I have heard, the children are returning
DIE, Bond!
If you could unwind history, where to stop…
Of course the world is not enough
Late September
Once I asked my grocer for a perfect potato
Nobody there, just fruit on bramble
Stainless Steel
You said it wasn’t worth the trouble
Day Rises, and quiet
I caught a tremendous fish
I have loved three women, married others

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Loads More Prompts

These are singled, the alpha-listed, then in reverse.
try reading it all, singing them, chanting

Wait for a voice to call you


They have promised to send a train, and we will leave
Father Maloney’s stare
Imagine a tender gravity, falling
And if I am writing, I am not holding my wife
I would like to sit close to the doors
How Morning is, and quiet
I have told you all this to give you pain
Bamboo Squares
They bubble-wrap hearts now and sell them three for two
The cook’s boy, the cleaning girl
Stone to stone, heart to stone
The rustle of history
NAIL, Hammer
Time clears its throat
Days of great love; of destiny
Do mad people love? What are there letters like?
Birds Eye Frozen False Tears are on Offer
Jack of Hearts
We will talk about great things, and football
I am silly, filled up with sleep and want
One Potato, Two Potato
Hardly a Joker
Should you not have time to memorise these instructions
Flat-Pack Marriages
The Chemistry of Distaste
And then cracking twigs
And we all stared at the box, and it inside

And if I am writing, I am not holding my wife
And then cracking twigs
And we all stared at the box, and it inside
Bamboo Squares
Birds Eye Frozen False Tears are on Offer
Days of great love; of destiny
Do mad people love? What are there letters like?
Father Maloney’s stare
Flat-Pack Marriages
Hardly a Joker
How Morning is, and quiet
I am silly, filled up with sleep and want
I have told you all this to give you pain
I would like to sit close to the doors
Imagine a tender gravity, falling
Jack of Hearts
NAIL, Hammer
One Potato, Two Potato
Should you not have time to memorise these instructions
Stone to stone, heart to stone
The Chemistry of Distaste
The cook’s boy, the cleaning girl
The rustle of history
They bubble-wrap hearts now and sell them three for two
They have promised to send a train, and we will leave
Time clears its throat
We will talk about great things, and football

We will talk about great things, and football, VENOM, Tick-Tock, Time clears its throat, They have promised to send a train, and we will leave, They bubble-wrap hearts now and sell them three for two, The rustle of history, The cook’s boy, the cleaning girl, The Chemistry of Distaste, TAXI, Stone to stone, heart to stone, Should you not have time to memorise these instructions, One Potato, Two Potato, NAIL, Hammer, Jack of Hearts, Imagine a tender gravity, falling, I would like to sit close to the doors, I have told you all this to give you pain, I am silly, filled up with sleep and want, How Morning is, and quiet, Hardly a Joker, GRATE, Flat-Pack Marriages, Father Maloney’s stare, Do mad people love? What are there letters like? Decision, Days of great love; of destiny, CHIME, Birds Eye Frozen False Tears are on Offer, Bamboo Squares, BALL, And we all stared at the box, and it inside, And then cracking twigs, And if I am writing, I am not holding my wife