Barefoot on Lego

One of these days, I’m going to take the time to understand Twitter. Just writing that sentence means I’ve come a long way – it used to be a different planet altogether, which I had no inkling or intention ever to visit. I still don’t get it, much less live there, but I’ve visited, breathed the atmosphere, despatched a few tweets and followed some of its inhabitants. But that’s about it so far, which on its own is pretty pointless. When I do explore in earnest, I could do worse than start with a case study of L.T. Vargus. Now, when I follow a twitter user (most of them are writers), I often get a message along the lines of “Thxs for the follow. Check out my novel XYZ at” Sometimes I do, because after all, writers support other writers, right? But it doesn’t often go further than that, because according to my calculations, if I got them all, I’d end up with 1.2 zillion books and be reading for my next 98 reincarnations.

What L.T. Vargus wrote was, “I’d step on a Lego barefoot to get you to read my book’s free sample. Don’t make me do it!” I thought that was funny so I didn’t make her do it. And I ended up reading Casting Shadows Everywhere and liking it. So now I must write a review of it. Which reminds me, one of these days I’m going to take the time to understand Goodreads.

Gazette Issue 2 and other writings


Many thanks to those who signed up for The Gazette. Issue 2 will be sent in a couple of weeks, and of course, to anyone who wishes, the first issue is also available – the subscribe link is on the right. Just a reminder – The Gazette is a free magazine containing two or three of my stories which may vary considerably in style or topic. For me it’s a useful way of sifting through ideas I’ve had for a long time but never got round to writing. So now I’m getting them into what you could call beta shape – not the finished product perhaps, but worked on enough to be put out for the judgment, and hopefully the pleasures, of others. Subscribers aren’t officially beta readers, since there’s no obligation to provide feedback (even if feedback is welcome). Details of the contents of Issue 2 will appear shortly.

Following my interview of T.J. Paris (author of, amongst other things, the wonderful Papa Bouilloire series), he has kindly reciprocated, with my answers to his questions appearing on his blog today. Many thanks, TJ!


Finally, after writing a first piece about Mayotte to kick off Clara’s excellent series People Who Live In Small Places (now including Gibraltar, the Seychelles, the Netherlands and a village in the west of France), I was asked by Phoebe at Lou Messugo to do another piece, her series being devoted to France and its overseas territories. I didn’t want to repeat the same post as I did for Clara, so it’s quite different in fact, with the negative side (i.e. illegal immigration and its consequences) given more prominence.


And that’s probably enough of me for the moment so I’ll sign off here. Ta ta!

Channillo on my Plate

It’s funny, but I seem to have managed to get rather a lot on my plate. ‘Here in Mayotte? Doesn’t he get bored?’ people ask my wife when she says I’m retired. To which she replies an emphatic ‘No, not at all!’ Apart from the novel, already on the go, the blog eats up a variable portion of the day, and then a few weeks ago I decided to launch the Gazette (see subscribe link on sidebar – first issue going out tomorrow!). As if that wasn’t enough, I received a tweet from Kara Monterey, founder of Channillo, asking me to submit an idea for a column, which I duly did. So for a year, starting 1st June, What a Life! What a Day! will be a weekly column for her recently founded serialised writing website. Many thanks for the opportunity, Kara!

I guess that’s called workaholic. On the other hand, if you’re doing what you enjoy, I find it hard to think of it as work. I was a bit the same when I really did work, taking on responsibilities that left me with very little time simply because I enjoyed it. As my wife still has to go out and deal with traffic jams, meetings and reports, I really ought to do all the housework. Strangely enough, though, I somehow never seem to get round to it.

PS Currently travelling, so please excuse me if I’m less reactive to comments, or less able to visit other sites myself. It’s not that internet access is difficult, just that this activity called ‘sightseeing’, which appears to be part of the deal, takes up a fair part of the day.

Flash Fiction Philosophy


I have mixed feelings about flash fiction – more about the writing of it than the reading, which can be wonderful with a well-written piece. But I tend to think long, both in time (ideas take a while to form and develop) and in word count. Nonetheless, writing a story in a given number of words, fewer than 250 say, can be rewarding for several reasons.

  • It forces you to be ruthless. Cutting out unnecessary words is possibly the most vital aspect of editing a text, whatever the length. So writing flash fiction is excellent training for that (as long as you remember to carry over the ruthlessness and don’t think ‘OK, I’ve got no limits now, I can let rip all I want’).
  • It forces you to write. Stuck for an idea? Many flash fiction events or contests give you a prompt (word, picture, sentence). This has the effect of focusing your mind, and once you’ve committed yourself to doing it, you have no option but to buckle down and be creative.
  • At the end, you’ve got something which may one day become a decent story. I say ‘one day’ because that’s the time aspect – I’m rarely happy with a short piece that hasn’t sat in my mind for days, even weeks, and gone through multiple revisions.

Unfortunately, The Book Blogger’s Flash Fiction Foray, in which the prompt is the title of a song, is in temporary abeyance while he revises for exams (good luck!). I like that one, partly because of the nature of the prompt, but also because you can take all week to do it. In its absence, I’ve turned to Micro Bookends. Here the prompt is a picture and two words, the first word at the beginning, the second one at the end, with a maximum of 110 words in between. But you only have 24 hours, which is kind of stressful. Not as stressful, though, as the challenge at Crevoke, where you’re given three words (e.g. spine, young, disarm) and have just 15 minutes to write a story (the counter’s running down on the screen in front of you). The Flash Fiction equivalent of speed dating. Hmm… I’m pretty sure I’d end up tongue-tied.

Gazette Issue 1 out soon!


So as promised, a few more words about the first issue of The Gazette. There are three stories in it, each one self-contained, but all interconnected to form a whole, And It Came To Pass. The first story, Away Too Long (970 words), was originally published by Leaf Books Magazine in an anthology of the same name. The other two, The Mystery Man (3778 words) and Quite Contrary (5627 words) were written specially to form the trilogy in this issue.

As I mentioned in my initial announcement, the themes and style of The Gazette will vary considerably. Though far from entirely bleak, this issue leans towards the dark side. But don’t let that put you off – subsequent issues will be brighter!

Three stories, over 10,000 words, all for free! Scheduled release date, 5th May. Sign up to receive an email PDF by clicking on the subscribe link to the right (if you’re on a smartphone, depending how smart it is, you may have scroll down to the bottom).

The Masterpiece Never Written

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A while ago, Emma from BluChickenninja wrote a great post about pens, with pictures and descriptions of half a dozen of her favourite. I was reminded of this when I went through the pens on offer in my broken-handled mug and none of them worked. Eventually, after holding one of them under scalding water for thirty seconds, I managed to extract sporadic bursts of ink. Was this payback? I’ve never bothered to look at my pens, let alone become attached to them. They come and go haphazardly. My favourite are simply the ones that work. And that includes knowing how to die decently. I don’t mind at all if a pen expires graciously, fading into nothingness in the course of a few lines. But there’s nothing worse than a pen that won’t admit to being dead. Like one of those Hollywood films where you think the baddie is finally done for but he keeps getting up for more.


Mine, yours, ours, theirs

In response to the Tiny Expats Show Your World event:


The first challenge is to wake up. After the third coffee, enough of my brain is awake to make it profitable to sit at my desk. Not very tidy. Stare at the gecko on the wall for the next five minutes. No, no, concentrate!


The view from the balcony:


A bit further afield (just as well I can’t see this from the balcony):


Satellite view of the district (Google checking on my progress).


My world, your world. Our children’s world. Let’s make sure they can enjoy it when they grow up.


The Writing on the Wall


The race was on – pool versus book. They were starting the wall, he was starting the second draft. He’d been away – they hadn’t got much done. He’d worked well, got up a head of steam, knew where the plot was going. The story was clear as an architect’s plan. The book was the odds-on favourite. No question.

The view from the window. Every so often, he rose from his desk to look. They were doing well too, no doubt about that. It spurred him on: they poured cement, he poured out words. For each of their planks, he nailed a dozen lines, hammering the words into place. Finished the chapter, set it in cement.

They were out in the sun, hauling and drilling and sawing, helmets heavy in the heat. He was inside with the ventilator. He went to the window and watched. They were mixing a paragraph with sand, tipping it into a barrow. They were building a row of chapters to support the wall. They’d need four or five, maybe more.

He went back to the desk, and saw that his words were loose. The screws weren’t right. They belonged to the story, but they wouldn’t fit. He leant back, trying to capture the music of the paragraph. It had to be there somewhere, hidden deep in the screech of the saw, the throbbing rumble of the drill.

With a howl, he gathered his notes and threw them out of the window. The workers watched the sentences roll down the road. One of them took a broom, swept the words into a pile and shovelled them into the barrow, verbs, nouns, adjectives tumbling in pell-mell. He showed them to the foreman, who examined them, nodded, and added them to the cement. The writing was on the wall. In the wall. Forever.


The writer went back to his desk and stared at the screen, smooth and empty as a freshly built facade of cement.

OGB update + poll


A perfectly timed 201 assignment today! Allows me to (i) give a brief update on One Green Bottle and (ii) collect your thoughts. What more could I ask for?

(i) OGB is now one of the editor’s picks on Book Country. Not entirely sure what that means but it can only be good! Meanwhile, after scouring query shark, I realised my own query letter sucks. So I’ve done it again and soon it’ll be off to more agents.

(ii) The survey below is really quick and easy. Just a few yes/no questions, but your answers will be much appreciated!