Xnoybis Volume Two and Other Wordy Things

Xnoybis Volume Two, which features my story And the Filth Flows …Always, is now available for pre-order from Dunham’s Manor Press via the Dynatox Marketplace. It’s $10+p&p which is a bargain for such a fine collection of work -even it is dragged down a bit by my presence. 😉

You can order it here and it will be shipping in September/October of this year. There are only 100 copies available though so you should get your orders in now.

In other news I’ve nearly completed work on another wee collection of stories. I have one and a half stories to finish first drafts of and then I’ll need to go over them with fresh eyes and hopefully get some feedback from folk before I see if I can’t get them published.

The, provisional, titles for the stories are:

Begiend
May’s Day
The Downfall of the Good Worker Laura McTavish
The Old Crooked Track
in these ways we remember
For What is Sweet and What is Right

‘The Downfall of the Good Worker Laura McTavish’ is around 60% complete and is inspired in part by Korzybski’s dictum “The map is not the territory” and in part by the works of Guy Debord. ‘The Old Crooked Track’ is at present a collection of notes on the back of fag packets, random fragments in my Evernote account and some scraps of paper that are around here somewhere… I swear.

All things being equal, and assuming a full time job doesn’t drop into my lap in the immediate future, I should have them all finished pretty soon.

I’ve also been pulling together ideas and making some rough preliminary notes for Sing Along With the Sad Song which will hopefully emerge into a nice collection of weird stories over the next few months. I’m going to put this out myself so as I can be a complete control freak over every last aspect of the production and have it look ‘just so’. I’ve learned from the mistakes I made putting out Hinterland and will be making sure that this comes out in all formats, including hard, tangible, copy simultaneously. Also, some of the stories in the collection are going to want to be formatted in a specific way that I fear e-readers will mess up so I want people to be able to read the stories as I lay them out rather than as their Kindle of Nook thinks they should be laid out.

The novella, ‘Dolorosa’ that I’ve been working on for ever such a long time has grown into a triptych of long novellas/short novels that will, realistically, not be released before next year -especially with the way that I have been writing recently.

So, hopefully, I should be able to release some more work into the wild soon.

Oh, and I’ve also been working on a story of near future Britain set in a camp constructed from shipping containers for working people. Cheery stuff. Here’s a wee extract from that story. It isn’t weird fiction, more worrying fiction.

Disclaimer: This is very first drafty. 🙂

Our Clouded Hills

It can be difficult trying to figure out when things began, you know? Was it when I was a kid and my mother had to move us into the container camp at Greensidings? When I left school and got put into the Work Capability Assessment scheme? I would probably still be on that scheme now if it wasn’t for what happened; you know? I know people older than me who had been put on it when they left school and they had never had a proper paying job in decades. Just working for fear of their giro being stopped and them losing their place in the camp.

No, I’ll not go back that far.

The night Mother Russia got her door knocked in is a good place to start. Mother Russia’s name was actually Irena and she was from Poland originally but had been in England for nearly thirty years, longer than I had been alive at the time. She had been living on the container camp a bit longer than my Mum and me and had become the go-to person when people were having trouble getting things sorted with the WCA or with getting sanctions on electricity and water lifted when they were out of work. I asked her once how she had come to be living at the camp. Mum had lost her job after our internet got cut off and she couldn’t log in to her call centre for a few days and so we had been assigned a place at the camp when she couldn’t meet the rent. Mother Russia, Irena, had been fired for talking her work crew on the Manchester to Bristol rail link into walking out on strike after one of them had been killed when a train came down the wrong side of the tracks. Ever since then she hadn’t been able to get regular work anywhere and had ended up on WCA and living at Greensidings.

At the time that she got her door knocked in I had been doing night shifts taking phone donations for one of the children’s charities who used unemployed people like me for such things through the WCA. I had just gotten back to the ‘sidings so it must have been about six thirty in the morning. I walked through the narrow rows of shipping containers stacked two high, three in some places, which had been converted into temporary accommodation when I was a boy. A lot of my neighbours had been there since the camp was first established and had done their best to make the place seem more homely. Little green lawns surrounded by little fences had been planted outside many of the ground floor containers. Window boxes hung from the windows of the upper levels, green leaves and bright summer flowers trailing over their sides. The containers were painted bright blues and greens, their original dull brown colour showing through as the paint faded and chipped, giving the place the look of a maze made of oversized Lego bricks.

A handful of people were already up and about and leaving for work or WCA placements. Some of them I knew well, others less so, but still people would nod or wave as I passed them, desperate to get home for some breakfast and bed.

Mother Russia lived a few rows away from me and Mum, I had to pass her place most days and would often see her on her way out as I was coming in. She had always been really good to me and Mum, as she was to everyone, and I was wanting to ask her advice about something – Mum had been sick for a couple of weeks and was worried that she would lose her housing rights if she couldn’t get to work. Irena was, as I said, the person to ask about such things. That was a horrible sight, as I rounded the corner expecting a good morning and a quick chat, to see her front door hanging off its hinges and her things all strewn about inside.

I stopped dead in my tracks staring. Which, in retrospect, probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. It was obvious what had happened. She was always pissing people off at the WCA or at at the People Power, (the water and electricity company) with the way that she always seemed to know the regulations, and the loopholes that go with them, better than the people who worked there. She must have pissed off one inspector too many and been evicted. Evicted or arrested -which would lead to eviction anyway- which would probably lead to arrest for vagrancy which would, in turn, make her ineligible for housing rights.

Rock meets hard place meets the tragically absurd.

I composed myself and hurried on past hoping that whoever was watching the feeds from the ubiquitous cameras that peered into every nook and cranny of the ‘sidings had missed my staring and taken it for me caring about what had happened. Everyone else who passed did the same, staring either directly ahead or down at the ground; not wanting to be noticed.

When I got home Mum was going to work. Unlike me she had a proper job now, working in the canteen of one of the office blocks in the city. It would take her a few hours to get there on the buses so she walked right out of the door as I came in, she pecked me on the cheek and was gone. I remember how poorly she looked. She shouldn’t have been going to work but she had no choice. If she lost the job and was too sick to work on the WCA then she would lose her housing rights and be evicted. Even though I was on WCA and so had our housing covered through the scheme I couldn’t claim her as a dependent and so she would be out.

I watched her go before making myself some toast,folding out my bed and falling right to sleep. Toast uneaten.

I awoke a few hours before Mum was due home and so I turned on the TV which prompted me to do a work search before it would give me access to anything to watch. I applied for a few places on training schemes and a job at a gluten processing plant the other side of the city. Knowing full well I wouldn’t get the job – the big MANDATORY WCA APPLICATION label attached to the form was always going to be a deterrent to a boss. I did think that I may have been able to get onto one of the training schemes though. At least that would have gotten me off the night shifts and back to sleeping like a proper person again.

It wasn’t to be though.

The next day was when Mum got really sick.

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