Detonation

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These are extraordinary – German photographer Martin Klimas drops these statuettes, and rigs his camera to trigger at the sound of their impact. In doing so, he creates a threshold: giving these porcelain figurines an explosive moment of life at the exact point of their death. His website has more of these amazing images, as well as other high-speed photographs. Mesmerising work.

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The marrow

Here it is, folks. After all those late nights of InDesign tutorials, Photoshop forums, calculations, colour swatches, dimensions, budgets, cursing, blurry vision, uploads, downloads and even a little bit of writing, Marrow has arrived. I’m delighted with the print quality – thanks to Inky Little Fingers for a really good little book. Recycled paper, yo.

Marrow is a collection of 28 flash stories ranging from 13 to 1,000 words. Around half have been appeared elsewhere – in Gutter, Fractured West, Valve, Flashtag, Paragraph Planet, Causeway, Smoke, Dark Mountain and others. The stories feature fighter pilots and guinea pigs, wishing trees and wet weekends, untuned pianos, tattoos, voodoo, daydreams, ink and avocados. There are private eyes and talking poppets – lions and lemons – selkies and tsunamis.

I’ve done this so I have something to share at readings – something to hold in the hand. It feels slightly surreal, but good. If you’d like a copy, get in touch. It costs £5, plus another £1 for UK posting. If you’d like to buy one, mosey over here.

Thanks to everyone who helped me out with advice, proofing and redrafting. Couldn’t have done without you.

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Dreamfired with Kat Quatermass

Last night was my third Dreamfired storynight, and my second reading in support. It was a wild and windswept night in Brigsteer, but a decent crowd of thirty or so had battled through the rain and sleet. The open mic is always good fun, and I was absolutely delighted to see Trev Meaney again – he’s a dazzling slam poet who I’ve seen in action at Lancaster’s Spotlight. He combines breakneck delivery with great comic timing, and his quick-fire poems never fail to impress. Last night he performed several pieces, including the excellent confessional ‘Lancaster to London’, which looks like this:

I was the last of the support acts. For the first time, I was reading from Marrow (because yes! The books turned up on Thursday. I’ll write more about that in the next post). I read The Black And The White Of It, Hutch and After The Rains – sad, dark and joyful, by turns. It seemed to go quite well – I didn’t fully relax until the second story, but then I started to enjoy it, to really take my time with the words. If I can get to that place at the start of a reading, rather than halfway through, I’ll count that a success. I’d love to perform with Trev’s confidence and flair, but I’m still learning to walk. Running comes with time.

Kat Quatermass – who runs Dreamfired – was the headliner. She performed a startlingly original sequence of contemporary fairytales, couched in feminism and queer culture. It was an excellent show. First she painted a modern city, with an abandoned fairground, pebbledash tower blocks, supermarkets and a polluted river – then she populated it with modern kids, kids looking for ways to fit in, ways to escape – ways to survive. Kat then sent her cast of disaffected adolescents into the gritty, fantastical city, where their stories intermingled with talking foxes, golden birds, the months of the year and Hungarian hag Baba Yaga. The stories chop and change and intermingle, played out in a carnival of urban fairytales. The show was equal parts Neil Gaiman, Brothers Grimm and Arcade Fire’s LP ‘The Suburbs’. Kat’s city made me think of my short story Vanishings – that sense that anything can happen in cities when the lights go down and no one’s looking. She explained that this was a work in progress – she plans to refine and develop the show over the next six months. If last night was anything to go by, audiences are in for a real treat over the lifetime of the show.

All in all, another cracker from Dreamfired. Next up, my 20-minute guest slot at Verbalise

To finish, here’s a picture of Baba Yaga’s hut, which walks around on chicken legs, because Baba Yaga is awesome. This is by illustrator Bojana Dimitrovski:

Baba Yaga hut Bojana Dimitrovski freelance illustrator advocate art

Inky Little Fingers

Okay. Steady breathing. I’ve finally sent Marrow off to the printers. It’s a nerve-wracking process, especially for a first time. I’ve gone with Inky Little Fingers on the recommendation of Flashtagger Fat Roland. If it goes wrong, I’m blaming him. 

Early in the process, Inky Little Fingers estimate the thickness of the spine from the number of pages involved. That measurement (in this case, 5.6mm) needs to be factored into the dimensions of the custom document created for the cover. Then, when you upload the cover art and contents, they generate an online proof for a final check. I was extremely relieved to see that my measurements were right, as I was certain I’d get everything horribly wrong and have to start again. Then I paid for 100 copies (which didn’t hurt too much, because I’ve been saving for this for a year) and submitted the final order. So there it is. Out of my hands, and into the production queue. The next step is a box of books turning up in a week or so, just in time for my spoken word support slot at February’s DreamfiredI’m looking forward to reading from the book, rather than from the tatty shreds of paper I keep in my back pockets, all crisscrossed with notes and late amendments. I’m also terrified that I’ve missed something really obvious and the cover will be printed upside-down. Something abominable is bound to happen. 

A couple of people have asked if I’m going to have a launch for Marrow, but I don’t think so. It was never supposed to be a big deal – just something to sell at readings, and something to teach me new skills. I’ve learned big chunks of Photoshop and InDesign over the last few weeks. And it’s been fun to oversee the entire process, too. I’m already drafting the next collection, which I think I’m going to call Real Life, after a story about checkers.

Here’s the final version of the Marrow artwork, with front and back covers.

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In the belly of a whale

I’ve talked a lot about wanting to get back to my novella The Year Of The Whale, and I’ve just spotted this novella competition judged by the excellent writer Jenn Ashworth. The deadline is distant enough that I think I can get it finished in time, so that’s now a concrete target for me.

In the course of researching and writing The Year Of The Whale, I’ve come across a huge variety of whale material. I’ve seen Medieval whales, drawn as dragons and devils, and countless images of beached whales, spilling themselves in streaks onto the shingle. And then there’s much weirder stuff, like this profoundly sad, surreal animation. It’s about childhood betrayal, I suppose, but there’s a lot of other things going on in there at the same time. I would say ‘Enjoy’, but it’s not that sort of film.

Odobenus rosmarus

I found this picture of a walrus skull (odobenus rosmarus, according to my friend Ross) in the British Library archives, cut away the background, made it black and white, lifted it into InDesign, added the background colour, changed the transparency mode so the skull turned shades of blue, found and added the fonts, and exported it.

If you knew what you were doing with Photoshop, this would probably take you about four minutes. But I don’t know what I’m doing, and it took me all night.

ALL BLOODY NIGHT.

Anyway – this is a first draft of the cover of my flash fiction collection Marrow, which I’m going to self-publish in the next few weeks. I’d appreciate any thoughts, positive or negative, about the design. I want something lean, but is it too simple?

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