We are the Makers of Maps

In a sense, every human construction, whether mental or material, is a component in a landscape of fear because it exists in constant chaos.
-Yi fu Tuan ‘Landscapes of Fear’

So, after what seems like a forever of anxiety driven huhming and hahing I finally approved the proof copy of my chapbook We are the Makers of Maps which is, therefore, now available for sale on that there Amazon place. It’s a print only chapbook as, to be honest, there was no way that I could see to properly lay out some of the pieces contained within, especially the poem ‘An Autumn Note’.

The book contains five pieces. Two short stories, ‘The Downfall of the Good Worker Laura McTavish’ and ‘in these ways we remember’, as well as three compositions, ‘Maps’, ‘East’, and ‘An Autumn Note’.

Makers of Maps Cover v23

‘The Downfall of the Good Worker Laura McTavish’ looks at the relationship between the maps with which we define the spaces in which we live and the reality of those spaces whereas ‘in these ways we remember’, a strange post-apocalyptic story, is concerned with the landscapes of memory and remembering. Hopefully I’ve been at least somewhat successful in what I’ve tried to achieve with the stories.

We are the Makers of Maps is something of a taster for my collection Sing Along With the Sad Song which will be out later this year. (Another project that has been too long in the making) However only one of the works from this chapbook will feature in the full collection. That will be ‘The Downfall of the Good Worker Laura McTavish’. Think of this as something like a single, or e.p., released before the main album. 😉

The book is available directly from Amazon or, if you’re in the USA, from Createspace too. (I get a teensy bit more of a royalty from Createspace. 😉 ) Links below.



It should also be available in all the other Amazon stores soon, if it isn’t already.

The Numbers of the bEast, or How Dame Did Me Wrong

For Joe Pulver, the real bEast.

Her name was Dame. When she walked into the bar our eyes met through the yellow blue cigarette haze. Taking a seat at the bar she ordered neat bourbon and proceeded to rebuff the advances of the drunks and creeps who were out in force that night. She glanced in my direction once she had deflected the come ons of One Arm Larry, a creeper of no small repute, and I denied myself the guilty pleasure of watching her deal with the flotsam and jetsam of the city. I would play the white night in a crumpled suit and tattered hat.
As I approached the bar she pulled out a cigarette and waited for the light that she knew I would offer.
“Dame” I raised the flame to the Lucky in her lips. “What brings a bad girl like you to a worse dive like this?”
“Oh, you know bEast.” I liked the way she capitalised my name properly. Not many can manage it. “Just looking for the sign, as always.”
“Honey, you know fine well that if any of these clowns had seen the sign they wouldn’t be in here killing their livers with the rat poison they sell over the bar.” I glanced at Mickey the Fish, the proprietor of Cassie’s Club. “No offence meant Mick.”
He looked up from spit cleaning a glass. “None taken beAst.” See what I mean about folk just not getting it right?
I took Dame by the arm. “Look here Dame.” I spun her round on her seat and pointed her to the door. “That’s the door, and me and you are going to be stepping through it right now. Unless you think one of these bums is going to show you the sign?”
Dame spun back to face me and laughed. “Oh, bEast. You do know how to show a gal a good time.”
From there it was easy. It’s rare to find someone who has heard of the Sign, rarer still to find someone so eager to find it. A class act like Dame looking for it was unheard of.
The heat and noise of the city’s night washed over us like a greasy tide. The sound of a thousand car horns sang into the night, each one an exclamation point at the end of the screaming sentence of the city’s nightmare. I hailed a cab and as it drew near Dame stood on her tiptoes and whispered in my ear, “Not quite the yellow I was looking for Daddy-O.”
I gave the driver our destination, and slipped him a fifty when I saw the strange look on his face. There are few moral quandaries General Grant can’t clear up. As he pulled into the river of the night’s traffic I grilled Dame on what she knew of the sign. Where she had heard of it, why she wanted it. I was expecting a classy broad like Dame to have some story to tell, for her to be different to all the others I’ve taken to the sign. Boy was I to be disappointed. Dame was just like the rest. She had read the first act and heard of the second. Had heard the stories of the French artists, of Carl Lee, of Mad Emperor of the Americas. She was a tourist. A classy one but a tourist still and so, like all the others before her, I would send her to meet the King. Let my blade give her a one way ticket to Carcosa.
The cab pulled up outside Barnabe’s Theater on 23rd and Rennies. I stepped out first and walked around to the open the door for Dame. No matter how much she had disappointed me I was still going to play the gentleman for her. The cab sped off leaving us alone in what has always been the only quiet spot in the seething sprawl of the city.
“This is it honey. Barnabe’s Theater. Once home to the world famous Bierce Players and Theatrical Troupe until the great tragedy of 1922. Now just a home to bums, rats, and your path to the yellow sign.”
Dame spun on her heel and took me by the arm. “Lead on Daddy-O, lead on.”
I walked up the short flight of steps and through the doorway into the gloom. Once our eyes adjusted we made our way across the long rotten carpet of the foyer to and into the theater proper. The air in here was cold, icily so, after the summer heat and Dame shivered. She followed as I led her down the wide steps towards the stage. Even in this darkness the presence of the King’s throne was palpable in centre stage.
When we stood directly in front of the stage I pushed Dame before me and slid my blade from my pocket.
“Here’s what you were looking for. Here’s your King, your yellow fucking sign!” I raised the blade above my head but before I could open her flesh a throaty laugh filled the auditorium and the stage lights flickered into a pale half life throwing shadows across the throne and the King. He sat resplendent in yellow upon his throne of broken glass. Smoke spiralled from the cigarette in his hand as he raised it to his lips.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Smoke rose from his yellow-white whiskered mouth as sonorous words punched me in the chest. My blade fell soundlessly to the floor. “You really don’t know who she is? Do you?” The King laughed at this.
“But, I…” the words wouldn’t come to my lips. I looked at Dame who was now standing straight and smiling at me. “I…”
“They may call me Dame Daddy-O, but that’s because I’m a Dame. Not because it’s my name.” With that she slid my blade into my chest once, twice. Before the third stroke I had collapsed bleeding into the filth. That’s how I came to be here, bleeding into the remains of a decades old carpet wondering why I hadn’t realised that any broad that classy would already have seen the sign, would have been one of the court. I really shouldn’t have thought I could do wrong to a Dame in the presence of the King.

Achievement Unlocked

I’ve had this story, The Downfall of the Good Worker Laura McTavish, knocking around my head for a year or more now. Towards the end of last year I finally got started on it properly and then life came along and I didn’t touch it for months. Well yesterday I sat down to do a bit of work on it and the next thing I knew it was knocking on for midnight and I had hammered out 5,000 more words, it was sat at just under 3,000 when I started, and it was done. Well, it was ‘done’. It’s still rough as hell but at least the first draft is out of the way.

Now I just need to complete the first drafts of The Corpse on the Clyde: A Vignette of Empire, There Once Was a Giant Who Fell in Love With a Storm, and Prolétrange and write the first draft of The Old Crooked Track and that’s my next collection very nearly done.McT-Finished

New Tiny Story

I’ve been under the weather recently (coughs and splutters to the tune of a tiny violin) and so I’ve not been doing that writing thing which I’m supposed to be doing so much of at the moment. So, in order to get myself wording properly once more I set myself a silly little writing challenge. To write a story with an arbitrary number of words. For my arbitrary number I selected 0605 which is the unlock code for my phone (yeah, like anyone who reads this is going to steal my phone) and decided to write ten paragraphs of 60.5 words each. Fun times.

Here’s 0605 for your amusement.


YA author Diana Urban has a list of 43 words that one should exorcise from one’s writing in order to improve your work. I read it and I have to say tish and tosh, what a load of old balderdash. Therefore here are all 43 of those words crammed like crammed things into a teensy piece of flash fiction.

And also, you said, you replied, in a virtually committal manner, before you paused to ponder upon the question as yet asked. You sit down. Down, down inside each breath you think: inhale/exhale (breathe) as you actually begin to realise that the somewhat futile venture of putting the answer before the horse was literally getting you nowhen. To understand you try something new. Stand up! And slip into third with a nod.

And also, the answerer, who was actually, really, very much the questioner, thought, somehow, that a new perspective on things, virtually speaking, had already begun to help. Just then a rather unexpected, and probably, they felt, quite unnecessary, first began to completely dominate the proceedings.

And also, I couldn’t help but feel from the start that I was basically a tool totally under the control of the maker of words. I was absolutely, from the start, never to wonder -certainly never to think nor ponder- about what it was I was to reach for. What was the answer? I was certainly never going to find the question and so the answer would definitely elude me. What else was there for me to do but shrug?


I should add that I know nothing of Diana Urban beyond this article and I’m sure that she’s more than likely an absolutely lovely person and a fine writer of words.

New Story: For What is Sweet and What is Right

I wrote a wee piece of flash fiction inspired by the war poet Wilfred Owen’s poem Dulce Et Decorum Est.

The story is here (LINK).

For those of you who don’t know it this is Owen’s poem.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen


Hinterland Out Now

My wee collection of stories is now available on the Kindle store globally. It’s £2/$3/€2,99 and has five stories. I will be releasing it as a paperback via Lulu once I’ve gotten the relevant tax shenanigans sorted out -hopefully in the next week or two. I’ll obviously post a link to that here when it is available.

To buy the ebook click the relevant link:

UK USA Canada Australia Germany France Spain Italy Netherlands Japan Brazil Mexico India

Hinterland Ebook Out Tomorrow

Whilst I was visiting my good friend Paolo(Linky) on Sunday he asked whether my stories were available on Kindle. I hummed and hawed and then eventually today thought: what the hell? Why not? So I spent a wee while this afternoon compiling the stories from this blog together into the correct format for Amazon, designed a cover, and now I’m just waiting for the review process to complete and my first wee ebook will be for sale. Scary spiders! 😀


New Story: And the Filth Flows …Always

The flooding was immense. I looked through the bedroom window at the street below. The black slime that last night had begun to seep up from the drains and to flow languidly down the gutters had risen so that neither the tarmac of the road nor the grey stone of the pavement could be seen. In their place was this slow moving river of it winding its way towards the center of town.

Cars and pedestrians alike made their way through the early morning haze seemingly not noticing the dramatic change to the street through which they passed. I wondered how they could be unaware of the viscous filth that pulled and sucked at their feet, that fouled the tires of their vehicles spraying their chassis’ with the grim substance.

The house was empty. It had been for years. Years since my daughter Kate had left home for her own life and, before that, since Alice had been taken from us. It had been so for years; yet now, faced with this strange and horrid phenomenon outside, I felt the loneliness more than ever. Since those first days after Kate left, those first days without either of the girls –without my family I felt the need to talk to someone –to anyone. To ask why they were not more perturbed, more caring, of the effluence which was now flooding the street. How could they bear to walk through it, to even drive through it?

The houses of Elderslie Road are old red brick Georgian terraces. Front doors opening directly onto the street but elevated by a couple of small steps. The blackness was flowing below the top of the first step, surely they must notice? It is only because of this tiny elevation that the horrid looking stuff was not flowing beneath doors and flooding the houses. At the rear of each house are more steps than in the front which lead down into the back yards so if the flooding was the same in the back then, at least, it would not have come into the kitchen. For now.

The full story is available in my mini collection Hinterland on the Amazon Kindle store. (LINK)

And the Filth Flows Always by Lee Culloty