To celebrate its release today, a retrospective collection of three short stories, titled The Race Glass, is being offered as a free direct download via amazon Kindle.
Check out the publisher's blog, Scrawl for this Special Launch Party Promotion and more info... (The e-book will be priced at £1.85 in the UK.)
The photograph used for the cover artwork on The Race Glass is currently being exhibited at Gwynedd Museum and Gallery, Bangor, until 19 April. It will then be exhibited at Oriel Pendeitsh, Caernarfon, from 2 May until 22 June, and can be purchased from the venues.
I wrote this piece as the 'Author's Introduction':
The idea was to put together a retrospective collection of short stories. Initially, this was to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the novel, Scraps. I was asked to suggest a set of titles that spanned those two decades – as it ended up, the stories showcased here go back beyond that, the earliest being from the mid-1980s. I justified this by pointing out that although Scraps was not published until 1994 (two years after it had been completed) I had been writing it for some years before. Also, as is often the case with fiction, Scraps is a highly stylised form of autobiography - in the same way that dreams are - and some elements that remain in the finished version also date back more than three decades.
Memories can be strange and mercurial… for creatives in general and writers in particular. We are custodians of our own memories, and for the memories of characters we have created. Usually they are very different indeed. Sometimes they are the same. I selected the three stories here because they are linked by being strongly autobiographical. Some of the characters represent adolescent aspects of myself that have been jettisoned with age, though I still love them enough to allow them to live on in this form… and they remain part of me, and I am still part of them. The past remains present and never more so than in the human mind. Places, now changed beyond recognition remain untouched, people now dead are still alive in our memories of them.
Many of the key characters you will find in these pages are ‘lost’ or incomplete souls, obsessed with finding their individual purpose, or a path that leads back to the ‘self’. They are part of what I was or what I could have become though did not. Some of the people and places are real, and although the stories are entirely fictitious, they are all true. (I know this because I made them up myself!)
|The Race Glass - three short stories|
I wanted the experience of doing a ‘proper film’ with real footage, and boom mikes, and cans, and processing, and cutting, and screening in a dark auditorium with a projector softly rattling in the background. We managed it all… sort of.
It all went as well as could be expected, except for the last reel which had to be shot at twilight. I miscalculated the exposure… There was no second chance of a reshoot or of reassembling the cast, so I faced a choice: leave in a final scene of Lynchian darkness with just the merest hint of movement in a grainy void – which probably would have been the better choice – or cut in some footage of roadside shrines I had filmed during a visit to Austria. I went for the latter. Well, at the time it made sense to me, though after the first few screenings I realise that it only made sense to me – that meant I must be a true auteur!
The film never got shown beyond the front rooms of those involved and one college screening to an audience of five, including its auteur director – all sounds very Nick Zedd, but he should remain unconcerned about the competition!
I rescued the script from oblivion by adapting it into a short story, which is presented in this volume for the first time. Whereas the film-making process is filled with compromise and ‘team-working’, the writing process is unencumbered by any of these considerations and remains truer to the original creative concepts. (Auteur is French for author.)
|Illustration for Guitar Hero|
(appeared in Scrawl, 2000)
At school there were two tribes: the sporty-types who talked football and kicked things around at break time, or the kids that were seriously into music, read the NME and decorated their exercise books with doodled logos of their favourite bands, preferring to stay in the Library over lunch time. I was certainly of the second species. To this day, music and song lyrics are hugely influential. Many of my very favourite writers work in song: Scott Walker, Gordon Lightfoot, Kate Bush, Nick Currie, Dave Graney, David McComb, Michael Gira, Nick Cave, Lydia Lunch, Claudio Sanchez, Serj Tankian, Dani Filth… the list could go on and on and on.
I had realised my boyhood ambition to become a film director… sort of. Next was the being-in-a-band thing. So, I formed ‘BrainDeath’, which was really more of a solo effort than a true ‘band’ – I wrote the ‘songs’ and ‘played’ most of the ‘instruments’ – guitar, synthesiser, sequencers, shaver, with some help from friends and family – my Dad provided the drills and other power tools. A 'live' show would have been me on guitar and microphone and the rest played back on tapes. At the time, I had access to the sound studios in the audio-visual department of the college so we recorded, and mixed a few tracks and put out a cassette single, No Way, with an instrumental ‘sound sculpture’ on the B-side.
I shared a house with a good bunch of young chaps, one of them was in a much more successful band and had been signed to a record label and did tours and everything… ‘BrainDeath’ was short-lived but did all that an indie band should: recorded and put out a DIY single, performed in student houses and made a proper pretentious promo video (this was a must in the 1980s). Written with hindsight, Guitar Hero was based on a delirious mismatch of thoughts, feelings and memories seeded at this time and deals with that life-stage when adolescents venture out from the environment of their up-bringing and begin to take fuller control of their own destiny. It concerns the concerns of growing up – transitioning from childhood, finding yourself amongst others, the angst often concealed, within, under the surface… because we, as adults, sometimes chose to forget that the ‘folly of youth’ is often a brave front.
|Homunculus title page illustration|
(from the SUTEKH's GIFT anthology,
The Fearsome Dark, 2004)
There are other threads, and there are codes and metaphors but these stories are sometimes simply what they appear to be. Which is which? That is for you to decide. The writing of a text is part of a process that continues with the reading of it, and the reader is in charge of that part…
So from here on in, dear reader, look to thy self!