Monday, December 22, 2014

New story publication

Great news yesterday that my story 'Looking for the Castle' is to be included in Unthology 7, due from Unthank Books in the summer. Editor Ashley Stokes had been deciding between two of my stories and this is the one he has finally plumped for, and I'm pleased, as it's by far the more complex of the two, another of the stories in which I've tried to do something more ambitious in the short story form than previously. ('Clarrie and You', which Unthank also published [Unthology 5] was another). One of the strange paradoxes of my writing life is that sometimes the things I've found easiest (and quickest) to write have been the easiest to publish or broadcast, and have received the most acclaim. Sometimes, I know, this is just because the thing happened to work right from the start, and the ease of conception comes out in the writing, but there's often the sneaking suspicion that the ease comes from, not exactly superficiality, but familiarity: a reliance on tried and tested codes. In these instances I feel that the reason the thing was so easily accepted was because I was writing into a borrowed reality - other people's, rather than my own. Then I feel I've cheated myself and my deeper aim in writing, which is precisely to question the ready-made realities.

The short story form is famously capable of exposing ambiguity and uncertainty, but there's also a danger of using its compactness to shut things down, to present a satisfying (but ultimately stifling) take on the world. In 'Clarrie and You' I wanted to show precisely how any 'take' on the world can be mistaken, and in order to do that I had to include a convoluted plot involving a secret, a real challenge for the short story form. 'Looking for the Castle' is similar, but this time it's not a secret creating a false view but the difficulties of memory and lack of understanding. It was one of the hardest
of my stories to write, and I'm hugely grateful to both Gerard Donovan, who judged the 2014 Short Fiction Prize and chose it as runner-up, and now to Ashley Stokes, for seeing what I was trying to do.

Crossposted to Fictionbitch.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lovely new review of Too Many Magpies

It's a funny, once you start a new novel all your eggs are in the new basket, and you're striving to achieve things you feel you haven't achieved before, so the novels you wrote previously tend to fade in your own estimation. And then you come across a lovely review of one of the earlier ones, and it's like realising you've been taking a loved one for granted. Here's what Amazon reviewer Rachel Smart says about Too Many Magpies:
This rather slim book holds such depth and human truth that it's unnerving. I've read 'Too Many Magpies' numerous times since June because I'm bowled over by the sheer craft of the words and the quiet stalk of its narrative structure. The arrangement of language is beautiful - detailed yet spare and sets scientific fact up against the modern moralities and myths of an organic life style. There is breathtaking illumination of the innate maternal fears that mothers suffer, and the dark anxiety that gnaws at the main character makes every other book I've read recently wither into insignificance. The writer, Elizabeth Baines has a clear narrative reign on the most deep-rooted issues in a woman's psyche. It's quite simply a stunning read and this is one of the most accomplished pieces of work I've read in the last few years.

What? She's read it numerous times since June?! It's one of the most accomplished pieces of work she's read in the last few years? It makes every other book she's read recently wither into insignificance? Well, wow: I don't think you could get a better review than that, not in my view anyway. You know, it's just so wonderful to know when a book you've written touches someone that much, and I'm so grateful to her for telling others that it has.

And there's another Amazon review of Magpies I hadn't seen before: 'Silly01' calls the book
Unique, harrowing and highly original. This book deserves more publicity, it had a long-lasting impact on me, though it was not a quick read, you have to take your time to absorb the beautiful language and the emotions.

 They've both made my Christmas, basically.