Radio News

As Sense: A collection of short stories has been out for 24 days now, I have some very exciting news. I had a radio interview (recorded on Thursday) and it has now aired. For the next seven days only the link can be listened to here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p01dy030/Peter_Holmes_24_08_2013/

(You’ll have to skip to 50 mins approx.)

If you are interested in the collection it can be found and purchased here. I’d love to hear what you think!

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The Book – Out Now!

Synopsis

sense cover jpeg

This collection of short stories varies from issues of the present day, to problematic views of fantastic and tragic futures. The further the reader progresses into the novel, the settings become more futuristic, as the stories are ordered in a hypothetical timeline. Bodybuilding, social media, the media and the justice system are just a few of the concepts that come in to play in these short and fascinating pieces of fiction. Click here to visit the page.

Exclusively on Kindle

Time to Publish

sense cover jpeg

Fantastic news, although I have been incredibly quiet, it has been with good reason. Within the next ten days I will be putting the final touches to a fabulous short story collection. All the news and updates will be published on this appropriately linked blog above.

The book will be called Sense, and touches on what it is to be human and to live in the technologically advancing society that we do. The blog’s homepage shows off a  pre-released cover, with the University of Essex’s branding who are endorsing the collection.

OUT JULY 31ST

Just So Story – How the Lion got its Mane!

In the early days before the high and far off times when beast ruled the ways, just after the Eldest magician had got things ready, the sandy lion, O best beloved, had no mane. He only had a pinkly sandy skin. He was shy and stooped and his roar was that of a sheepish squeaking sound. He was filled with an innocent fear that could never be quenched, and lived feeling sorry for himself on the upper country.

One dusty summer’s morn on the banks of the upper country the sandy lion saw the ‘specially treacherous tiger, who could most definitely not be trusted. The treacherous tiger self-confidently sauntered towards the sandy lion and growled in a most untrustworthy fashion.

“Sandy lion why is it so that you hide away from the other cats so shy and stooped when you could be free in the life of the leafy jungle shades?”

The sandy lion flinched as he sheepishly said.

“For I could not possibly leave the upper country and its grassy banks for the leafy jungle shades. There are too many things that creak and squeak and jump and bump, I do not belong in a place like that.”

The sandy lion showed his squeaking sheepish roar to show his deceitful companion of his reason behind his point. The treacherous tiger smiled with assembled amusement in his eyes and began to purr pensively. The sandy lion ruefully retreated on revealing his stooped and shy nature to one most treacherous.

“Come with me O sandy lion and I will show you the ways of the leafy jungle shades, for no thing that creaks or squeaks or jumps or bumps will ever scare you whilst I am with you, for I am the prince of the leafy jungle shades.” And he roared a startling roar to prove this to the shy and stooped lion. Upon hearing this most astonishing roar the sandy lion retreated and nodded his great head timidly in acceptance of the tiger’s inviting idea. They set off there and then O best beloved with the pinkly sandy lion following closely behind the terrible tiger’s tail.

After much twisting and turning and diving and ducking they found themselves deep in the leafy jungle shades. Every jump and bump and squeak and creak the shy and stooped lion edged ‘sclusively closer to the treacherous tiger. Then one particularly dangerous creak the lion turned expecting the tiger’s support, and in most untrustworthy fashion the treacherous tiger was not to be found. The shy and stooped lion was even shier than before. He was stood alone, O best beloved, in the dark of the leafy jungle shades.

“O most treacherous tiger, where have you gone, for I cannot find my path out of the leafy jungle shades alone, as there are too many things that bump and…” Before he could even finish his sentence something did jump and creak and squeak on the great lion’s sandy shoulder. The sandy lion panicked in a most wonderful fashion, he thrashed and bashed and pushed and pulled until he was free from the unknown being. He started running in great fear, sprinting in the darkness of the leafy jungle shades into a great grassy bramble patch. Again he thrashed and bashed and pushed and pulled breaking the brambles which collected at his wheezing neck. He ran and he ran moaning with pain his sheepish squeaky roar getting deeper and deeper, louder and louder until the most frightening roar erupted from his midst that could be heard all the way in the upper country. He roared again in an even more magnificent fashion breaking free of the thinning brambles. He leapt out of the leafy jungle shades in pure joy shaking his newly fashioned bramble mane to and fro and roaring in pure delight.

The treacherous tiger O best beloved sauntered once again not so confidently up to the mighty lion and circled him to see the terrific transformation.

“See sandy lion you are a mighty and proud animal after all, and as for your sheepish squeaking roar.” He laughed a guileful giggle and went on his treacherous way looking for another being to deceive.

 

So the mighty lion went away and lived happily ever after best beloved. That is all. If you ever see a lioness you will see she does not have a mane, you will know that she was not present for the treacherous tiger’s transformation, but is still just as proud.

 

 

Character Development

 

 

In the reflection of the shop window I slapped on the finishing touches to my make up, sure that half my lipstick must have been smudged onto my teeth. My handbag was all I had left. I headed straight in the door of Demuths, my local vegetarian restaurant, and sat down at the nearest table. The Waitress came and with a nervous smile I ordered a small cup of something organic.

What came with the arrival of the drink was the immediate feeling that I was being watched. As I warmed my hands on the cup and breathed in the warm scent of carrot and coriander, I glanced around the room to see if I was right. In the corner of the room was a shadowed figure that seemed so absurdly dressed that he looked as if he had been plucked out of a comic book. I smirked at my wit, which was obviously a mistake as the figure took this as an invitation to smirk back, stand, and walk over to where I was sitting.

“May I sit here?” He asked in a voice that was just as ridiculous as his get up.

I was just about to deny him the privilege, when I held my breath and nodded, just a little bit of fun will not hurt.

While he was putting his trench coat on the back of the chair I gave him the proper look over: he wore a black pinstripe suit with stains that seemed to change the colour of his clothes altogether. He had black, greasy, swept back hair and a copious amount of dandruff to match. Great bags lay below his eyes as though he had had as much sleep as he had showers, and his skin gave off a grey-white colour and looked as though it was absorbing the light from around him rather than reflecting. When he sat I expected a great stench to wave over me of the unwashed, but all that did was a musty smell, like opening an old book.

As if I could not be surprised enough his facial hair was the biggest shock: a black square below his lower lip. I was sitting opposite Hitler.

He stared at me as he sipped his coffee. This was more threatening than I had anticipated so I tried to escape the situation.

“I am waiting for my boyfriend.” I blurted out. Half pleased with the excuse, but mainly disappointed with the delivery and execution of it.

He smiled a smug smile, waited for a second, and sat back with one leg crossed over the other as though he had been in this sort of situation with strangers many times before.

“What do you do?” He had ignored my bluff.

I paused before answering, I thought of lying, but I was somehow scared to. “Nothing,” I mumbled.

He smiled again, this time licking his lips with an oily tongue. I felt a shiver down my spine, I thought of leaving out but I could not think how, his eyes left me motionless, as though I was under his spell.

“I work for the government.”

 

Night time

 

          Sunrise


I was softly nestled in the folds of her white as snow duvet, while she applied her make up. I was just as excited as she. Mine had spilled onto my face to create a brimming smile, but hers had expressed itself through blusher, eye shadow and, not out of place with the rest of her make up; heavily smothered lips in scarlet lipstick. She caught my expression and I let myself giggle.

“I look awful don’t I?”

I shook my head still bearing my smile.

“You look great, but you could use a little less make up otherwise you might find he confuses you with a circus clown.”

The gap between her eyebrows quickly lessened revealing a frown and turned to grab a wet wipe once again revealing her natural beauty. She was sat in her underwear; having decided that there really was nothing that she could wear that would be good enough. I tried to convince her that whatever she wore would be good enough for even the best man in the world, and that’s when she replied that he is. I had forgotten how long she had waited for this, like a fair maiden in a fairytale; waiting to hear the chink of his shining armour. I just hoped he would live up to it all, and be able to climb to the tallest tower.

I smiled again, but less certainly, climbing out from under her duvet and straightened up my skirt before walking over to her window. I saw the knight walking down the path from his noble steed; it was a citreon with three doors.

“Will’s here.”

“I’m not even ready, what am I going to do?”

“Relax it’ll be good to make him wait. Besides I’m sure your Dad has some questions for him.” I sniggered at the concept as did she. We had laughed previously at how our fathers seemed to replicate movies and television to create personas of protective fathers. They interrogated the boyfriend not because they felt the need to, but because TV did it. Right on cue we heard her father answer the door and a pause before her fired a question at Bill’s introduction.

I headed to her wardrobe as she lightly brushed on her make up, making a good job of it this time, even though her hand was shaking at the proximity of her date. After placing her outfit-to-be on the crumpled duvet, I applied the mascara, which was made much harder by her deep breaths and constant blushing.

When she was ready she turned to face me, we smiled knowing she was ready. She waltzed down the stairs in bright red high heels, poking out the bottom of the denim hems of her jeans. Her father’s voice went quiet, and the door closed.

Midday

I straightened my bow tie, stroked my stubble and told my best man to leave the door closed behind him; this time I needed to myself. Looking in the mirror I tried spurring myself on, a little coaching from the sidelines.

“C’mon Will, be ready.”

Even as I said these words I already knew that what lay before me was something that I could simply not be ready for, just as I was not ready for the past. What started out as just a fling with another girl from high school had taken a wrong turning, ever since the pregnancy. By the time I found out, it was too late to abort. She had kept it secret from me all summer, while I had been away. When I returned, I encountered hard responsibility, the type that only comes with a swollen stomach.

I stroked my chin again, looking at myself. There had been no time for vanity in the recent months. It was a year ago that I first swaggered down her path and now I have to go down the aisle. Her father mentioned responsibility when I met him, trying to seem like he had reason and intimidation on his side, but he came across as a joke, and as a result that’s what I viewed her to be.

I cannot let these thoughts dirty my wedding day. My thoughts must be my aid, cold feet is just an ordinary occurrence on wedding days for the groom, as natural as breathing. I love her and that’s that. I must do; we have a child together, we have our whole lives ahead of us and this is our chance to live it. This is the right thing to do. I smiled warily at myself, the weariness in my eyes appearing to slowly dissolving into the background of my face, the edges of my lips curling up and pronouncing the dimples in my cheeks. I must be a good parent, and in order to do that I must be a husband.

Outside the cry of a young child crept under the closed door.

Goodnight

 

I sat solemnly at her bedside. The room stood glumly around me as my mother lay, appearing to be asleep, but her eyes flickered with mad, perilous thoughts. Her hair was silvery and wild, with her skin; wrinkled and sagging from the contours of her face. We did not speak.

While her eyes met nothing I stared at the photo of her wedding day. I was being held in her arms, no more than four months old, as my father held her. He bore light stubble and shadowed good looks with a half curled smile fashioned upon his expression. Every time I had regarded this photo I always saw his eyes, which stood out most predominantly. They spoke of fear, and uncertainty, even though my mother said they spoke of his love.

Few of my memories include him, other than ones that seem to be made up by corners of my mind that wish he had been a part of my life. It would be the times that matter that he would not be there for, but the contradiction is that they would not matter without him. My mother says he was loyal and loving and I try to believe this was true.

A Writer’s Monologue… (An Alan Bennett inspired short story)

 

“The pen is more mighty than the sword” or at least that is what I think anyway. I say it so much it may as well be my phrase. I told Barry that over a drink last week, he had lager I had scotch, on the rocks. He said I was a funny guy when I try, so I said yes but I don’t really, only to make him laugh again. He started banging on about that job of his and how he had just got into this business thingy with a lot of buying and selling lots of products, I’m not too sure on the details but it all seemed like a great idea. He appears to be on his way to making his first million.

Me on the other hand I should have made mine a long time ago, I’m a literary man myself but these publishers don’t seem to know a great story when they see one. I keep on trying every one I can. It’s a murder mystery but with a twist as it’s in the sixties when no one knew what was what. Anyway you always hear of loads of famous and successful authors being turned down. JK Rowling didn’t get published for ages and now look at her! She’s been earning so much that she doesn’t know what to do with it.

Barry said that too much money is a terrible thing, for everyone else that is. She may be a talented writer but she is not that different from the rest of us. I hear she suffered great depression before and during the writing of the first book. It is common knowledge that great writers suffer great sadness. Unfortunately I have not suffered depression first hand but I am always looking around for an insight. I recently went to a funeral and tried to absorb all the emotions that were drifting around. Afterwards I walked up to the vicar and said “It’s all very difficult isn’t it.” He looked at me and asked me how I knew the man. I said I’d met him once or twice.

When I got home I grabbed my laptop computer and brought it to the local starbucks; my little writing grotto, and ordered a cappuccino and sat down to work. I always feel important when I sit down to write in a public place, it makes me look like a seasoned professional, which I am of course.

I didn’t always know I was going to be a writer, the thing that sparked it off was when I was about eight or nine and I won a short story competition at my primary school, well I didn’t win but I came second but everyone said I should have won. I remember it clearly; it was about a young boy; Max and his dog; Sparky and their journey to a fantasy land. The teachers said it was a wonderful metaphor. I won a bag of sweets. I went home that day and told my father, he said I did alright. I asked him to read it he said he was busy and he would do it as soon as he had time but he was working on a few poems and his novel as well.

Since then I haven’t had much trouble in deciding to follow the literary path. I remember speaking to a few distinguished writers about their successes. They were all saying how they couldn’t have done it without the support from their families, and I said well everyone has different methods, like I use a word processor. They all laughed. We were in a book shop at the time. They started to drift off to look at their books on the shelves and admire their handiwork.

What I’ve always admired about us writers is that we all see much further than what meets the eye and we all seem so well spoken and very modest. My father definitely had these qualities as he always appeared to be very selfless and very talented. My mother, before she passed away, used to say I reminded her of him. I definitely am taking after him and constantly improving, in the South East Yorkshire veterans short story competition which I entered I received a special mention. They said they enjoyed the way the children were described in an adult fashion as it added to the irony of the situation.

Barry said last week that at first he didn’t think I’d make it as a writer. Shows how I proved him wrong.

The Homeless Truth

This is a story I entered for a short story competition, unfortunately I heard nothing back but I thought I could at least show the blogging world what I can do…

It was when I first doubted mankind’s integrity, and was sick of the ritual of church that I first met him. His ragged grey tufts of hair poked out his woollen green hat and led to a grim white beard. When he spoke the sour breath of decay and communal wine crept out of his mouth, it was a smell that remained throughout our friendship.

Our first encounter was when I was sat on a park bench around the back of the church. His first words to me were inaudible, and I did not feel Samaritan enough to ask him to repeat himself. He proceeded by urinating on the newly gardened church plants. I made him leave the grounds immediately, unable to contain my disgust and fury.

From then on I saw him moping around, always with one eye on the church and one hand in the bin. It was the third or fourth time seeing him eat some foreign object from the rubbish outside the church gates that I was spurred into action from a mixture of disgust and guilt from my treatment of a man who did not know any better. As I approached I whispered ‘Love thy Neighbour’ for my own ears, and inhaled deeply on my arrival.

“Father Graham.” I introduced myself. I stood waiting for a reply. “I’ve noticed you in my congregations…” I trailed off realising the weak approach that I had. He didn’t care who I was. How egotistical was it that I thought he would? I decided to seek his forgiveness through my rehearsed apology. “I’m sorry for attacking you last time we met, I hope we can get past this.”

His response was to delve deeper into my dustbin and pull out an empty packet of what appeared to be last night’s supper. He continued by licking the dried tomato sauce from the plastic. I could not watch anymore, keeping my guilt in mind as I headed inside. The next time I came out was the first time he had looked at me properly. I held a large loaf of bread and a few slices of ham. I sat down a couple of metres away from him with the bread on my lap. He stared at me, his mouth hanging open at the sight of fresh food as he slurred a sentence, speaking as if he had not uttered a word in years.

“Is ‘at for me faver?”

I nodded tearing the loaf in half and stretched out my hand in a peace offering. He slowly took it seeming unsure, but he calmed down a little as he glanced at my dog collar. He raised the bread towards his blackened teeth, the smell obviously increasing the level of hunger he suffered from. He stuffed a large amount into his mouth and swallowed almost as though he was afraid to taste the food. After the first half of the loaf had gone I gave him a portion more along with half the ham, saving a small amount for myself. I left him eating as I strolled back inside with a smile stretching my lips.

It was only when I started Eucharist late that Friday that I saw him again. He came up during communion and I gave him an especially large gulp of Christ’s blood even though I doubted his confirmation. He stumbled back to an empty pew where he promptly lay down.

When it was time to lock the great doors of the church I left him to sleep, giving him the shelter that the building provided, though I was careful to lock away the silverware, and more importantly; the communion wine.

Life went on in this fashion for the best part of a month as I fed and housed him. The only exchange was an occasional slurred sentence or a snore as I walked past his pew.

Then once when I was holding confession, I smelt his familiar earthy aroma enter the booth and it took me by complete surprise. Curiosity arose within me and I was about to begin when he interrupted.

“What sins ‘ave you done faver?”

I laughed; it was the only thing I could do. Surprise and embarrassment washed over me.

“I’ve committed no sins that the Lord hasn’t forgiven me for.” We sat in silence for a couple of seconds as I wondered if I had escaped with my complete avoidance of answering the question. “What about you?”

He inhaled sharply suddenly awake, his coarse accent grating the air.

“What about me? I’ve been part of a murder. But tha’s another story.”

His words hung dramatically in the air as an eerie quiet arose. I had the complete inability to read whether he was joking or not. I sat confused, sure that no one would reveal a secret like this in such a circumstance, or so light-heartedly. I wondered for a second if I had been housing a murderer.

“I’s in prison for a long time.”

He stopped talking, as his words drifted into the silence of the church. A hiccup echoed on the other side of the partition.

“He was my brother.”

I stayed where I was in disbelief. His voice sounded truthful, full of deep remorse where he uttered those last four words. I assumed he was lying and trying to manipulate me; especially with the ease he had admitting such a tragedy. My job however, was to give forgiveness if he truly sought it, so I ventured my question.

“The Lord can help anyone who knows their wrongdoings and truly repents.” I paused hoping for an acknowledgement. After a couple of seconds I carried on. “Do you seek forgiveness?”

His face became pressed up against the partition as I waited tensely for an answer, hoping it would be telling of how truthful he was being. The smell of his breath fell heavily into my nostrils and a snore dropped from his mouth. I sighed; he had been acting to neither of my assumptions and had simply been playing a drunken joke on me. I left him there and apologised to the people who had been waiting. Mrs Johnson, who had written in the parish newsletter about the degradation of the community, was the last to accept my apology. She made sure she held my gaze for more than was necessary before she turned. As her feet sounded on the floor her head tilted back so she could look down her nose at everyone and everything.

In the following weeks he came more frequently to confession, each time telling a different story, all of them varying in depth and description, all of them ending with the death of his brother. As his confessions continued, the more worried I became about the truth of the tales.

In late summer when he disappeared for two complete weeks. Each one of the fourteen days I had considered calling the police, and every time I got to the phone I didn’t know what I was going to say. I did not even know his name. I discovered him lying in the street. When I arrived at his side I saw his face was drenched in blue and purple from various bruises. His nose and upper lip were crimson with blood and his breath fell shallow and faint. I called an ambulance.

The journey ran in slow motion as I travelled beside him to the hospital, but it was the taxi back that was even longer and even more surreal. Grief pulsated within me as the horrible aftertaste of regret followed.

A crumpled letter worn down from years of use and care lay in my hands. The only material possession in a life of neglect, and it had been passed to me in his death.

My Darling Son,

 

It is not your fault. It pains me to even start to think you would blame yourself. What happened could never be in your control, or anyone else’s. What he asked of you should never be asked of anyone let alone a brother.

The most important thing is that you do not blame yourself; there is no point in losing your life because your brother lost his. I need you to come back home, or at least to know your safe, I can’t keep not knowing and I just cannot cope with the idea of losing both my sons.

Please come back home and let life carry on.

 

Your ever loving and understanding,

 

Mum

xxx