My first piece of writing to be published was my story “The Faraday Cage” which was shortlisted in the 2014 Short Story Competition and then included in the resulting anthology “Seaglass” published by Black Pear Press. The story was the product of an exercise that was part of a short story course run by the Lifelong Learning Centre at the University of Leeds. I owe a huge debt to Ebba Brooks, the tutor on this course.
The Faraday Cage
The rain was easing slightly but the thunderstorm was getting closer. She found herself counting the seconds between the flash and the noise. What was it they said? One second was equal to one mile? She counted five seconds.
Parked directly underneath the pylon they were protected from the electrical storms that were all around them, and if the winds were to bring down the pylon it wouldn’t fall on them. That was his theory anyway. She was sceptical but then she hadn’t really wanted to come in the first place.
‘You want us to go camping on the moors?’
Read the rest of the story here the-faraday-cage
Small independent publishers are invaluable to writers who are starting to make their way into the challenging world of trying to get work published. Emboldened by being shortlisted in 2014 I entered two stories into the second Black Pear Press Short Story Competition in 2016 and was thrilled that I got second place with “The Photographer”. I was even more pleased with the judge’s comments: “really effective, tight writing, that shows us a whole lifetime in a very elegant, controlled way.”
It was the socks that first made Ted realise the size of the task he had set himself. Should he photograph them individually or as a collection? He laid them out on the bed while he contemplated the dilemma. They looked like a fishmonger’s display; the exotic and colourful next to grey sea bass.
Of course, it wasn’t a simple binary choice; there were intermediate positions that he could take. He could group the socks a number of ways. Work socks; casual socks. Black socks; coloured socks. Plain socks; patterned socks. Or he could photograph them simply in pairs. But then what would he do with the orphaned socks? On principle he felt that he should capture them individually, it wouldn’t be that much of a task, he had counted twenty-six pairs, and five orphans, so that was only fifty-seven pictures. He could do that quite easily. But – and this was the point that troubled him – if he did the socks one by one what would he do with the paper-clips in the saucer that sat on his desk? Would he have to photograph them individually as well?
Read the rest of the story here the-photographer
My other entry to the 2016 competition was a story called “Until Four”.
I know she’s not on Facebook – I’ve looked – but I put her name into Google. The sound of the rain was stopping me from sleeping anyway.
I’ve Googled her so often now I recognise most of the hits, none of which have got me anywhere. I’ve been through countless pages of images looking for her face. Trying to imagine how she might have changed. Hair long or short? A different colour? Every time I try different search strategies, different combinations in the hope of finding her. But she’s not the dog-trainer in Taunton. Nor the hypnotherapist in Liverpool, the estate agent in Glasgow, the City lawyer. I curse the ubiquity of her name. They say we all leave a digital footprint but it’s as if hers has been washed away by the rain. Or as if I have imagined her and the night she said “You can stay until four.”
Read the rest of the story here until-four
Both “The Photographer” and “Until Four” were published in the resulting Black Pear Press anthology “On the Day of the Dead”.
My first novel On Borrowed Time is set in Hong Kong around the period of the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997. The novel explores issues of personal responsibility and choice set against the political context of the time. Currently I am writing a second novel (None More Loyal) set in 1950 in the former Portuguese colony of Macau, now a Special Administrative Region of China. The other side of the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong, Just an hour or so away by hydrofoil, Macau is a popular playground for Hongkongers. With a much longer history than Hong Kong, and being a colourful mixture of traditions and cultures, I am surprised that it hasn’t featured more often in books and films.
Another continuing project is a collection of linked short stories again to be set in Macau. One of the collection, The Jade Monkey Laughs (“unexpected and graceful…told with wonderful poise”), won 3rd Prize in the 2017 Ilkley Literature Festival Short Story Competition and went on to win the English section of the 2018 Macau Literary Festival short story competition and was published in the anthology The Script Road. Another two of the stories – “Sacred to the Memory” and “A History of Chinese Tea” – have been published by Litro Online. You can read them here: